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jSlorfh Carolina Sfate Library 

Series XVII No. 7-8 



Historical and Political Science 


History is past Politics and Politics are present History. — Freeman 





Professor of History and Political Science, Trinity College (North Carolina). 


Published Monthly 



3313 si 



The author desires to express here his sense of obligation 
to the many friends who have so kindly made suggestions 
and furnished him with facts bearing on this monograph. 
Their cheerful compliance with his requests has made the 
work easier than it might have been. Among those to 
whom he is especially indebted are, Dr. B. F. Arrington, 
Dr. Thomas Hill, and Maj. D. W. Hurt, of Goldsboro, N. 
C; Dr. K. P. Battle, of the University of North Carolina; 
Dr. J. D. Huffham, of Henderson, N. C. ; Rev. J. B. Rich- 
ardson, of High Point, N. C, and Col. John D. Whitford, of 
Nevvbern, N. C. To each of these gentlemen he returns 
his sincere thanks. 

Durham, N. C, July 7, 1899. 


Introduction: General Characteristics 7 

I. Legal Status of the Slave; The Slave in Court, Runaways, 
The Slave's Right to Hunt, The Slave's Right to 
Travel and Trade, The Slave's Right to Life 10 

II. Free Negroes and Emancipation; Emancipation, Free 

Negroes 29 

III. Religious Life 47 

IV. Industrial and Social Life; Population, Distribution, The 

Regulation of the Slave's Life yy 

V. The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment; Slave Con- 
spiracies, The Growth of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment . . 94 

Slavery in the State of North Carolina. 


The story of slavery in the State of North Carolina may 
be considered in two parts, the dividing point of which is the 
year 1831. Before this year the general conditions of the 
slave were more humane than after it. Public feeling on 
the question was then unimpassioned. Some people opposed 
it; some favored it. It seems to have been discussed in a 
sane way, as a matter of public policy and without any 
extraordinary excitement or recrimination. After 1831, 
or about that year — for no fine and distinct dividing 
point can properly be made — the conditions of slavery 
became more severe. One law after another was passed 
which bore hardly on the slave, until at last he was 
bound hand, foot, and brain in the power of his master. 
Moreover, public feeling became inflamed. Slavery could 
no longer be discussed as a public policy, and there arose 
with most people in the State a fervent intolerance of all 
views advanced against the system. 

The causes of this remarkable development have often 
been enumerated. Later on in this work I propose to 
explain the matter with some degree of fulness in a chapter 
on the development of the pro-slavery sentiment. Here 
it cannot be necessary to do more than point out the gen- 
eral facts of the process. 

In this sense the chief cause of this change was the inven- 
tion of the cotton gin and the consequent opening up of the 
cotton industry, not only in many parts of North Carolina, 


8 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [324 

but in the entire Gulf region. This gave a strong impetus 
to the settling of large plantations which hitherto had been 
limited for the most part to the rice producing regions. A 
wide extension of slavery could never have been made on 
the basis of the small farm, where there was necessarily 
much white labor. In North Carolina, and elsewhere, no 
doubt, it was noticeable that slavery, even in the days of the 
greatest excitement over the slave question, was of a milder 
type in the western counties. Here the farms were small. 
Slave-owners had but few slaves. With these they mingled 
freely. They worked with them in the fields, ploughing side 
by side. The slave cabins were in the same yard with the 
master's humble home. Slave children and, indeed, slave 
families were directly under the eye of the master, and better 
still, of the mistress. On such farms from five to twenty 
slaves was a usual quota, although their number often went 
to fifty and even higher. Could this type of bondage have 
predominated in the South, it is likely that slavery would 
sooner or later have softened itself, as in the disintegrating 
Roman Empire, into some less austere forms of servile labor, 
until at last it came by successive stages to the light of free- 
dom. That it did not happen was due to the aristocracy of 

The triumph of the cotton aristocracy did not come in a 
day. In 1800 North Carolina was, except certain sections 
in the far East, in the grasp of the small farm system. There 
were then many people in the State who opposed slavery. 
Some of them were statesmen who, like Jefferson and Wash- 
ington, looked to the day of freedom. They were strong 
enough to offset and keep down a certain thorough-going 
tendency to deal with slaves in a summary manner, which 
from the first was not wanting with some legislators. But 
as the large estate prevailed, the pro-slavery influence 
became stronger. The arguments on this side were natur- 
ally aggressive ; and those on the other side were conserva- 
tive. The former caught the support of the younger men 
in politics. As time passed the older party was weakened 

325] Introduction. 9 

by the death of its leaders, and the new party gained 
strength. It was in 183 1 that the latter was able definitely 
to triumph over the former. 

There are two well-known facts that secured this decisive 
victory; that is to say, the Nat Turner rebellion and the 
beginning of the more vigorous anti-slavery agitation in the 
North. The former won the victory; the latter undoubt- 
edly made it forever sure. 

Looking behind these two facts, however, it is worth 
while to ask how much the newer development of slavery, 
due to cotton cultivation, had to do with these two occur- 
rences. To attempt to answer this question here would be to 
anticipate the task of the historian of slavery in general. I 
shall only venture to suggest that it may be probable that 
the growing harshness of slavery, either in Virginia or in 
the far South, led Nat Turner to make his futile attempt 
at freedom. With more confidence I might assert that the 
certain extension of slavery in the Gulf States, as well as 
in the older slave States, nerved the anti-slavery associates 
of Garrison to a fiercer battle. They saw, they must have 
seen, that the enemy against whom they contended was 
every day growing stronger. This aroused their efforts 
in the first instance, and made the fight more bitter through- 
out its course. This increased strength of slavery was due 
to cotton. But for this the famous contest in the Virginia 
Legislature of 183 1 might have had another end. Mr. 
D. R. Goodloe 1 is authority for the view that such a triumph 
of anti-slavery in Virginia would have carried North Caro- 
lina against slavery. Such a victory in either State, or in 
both, would have broken the sectional balance in the United 
States Senate and secession would have been blighted ere it 
had sprouted. 

1 See a manuscript sketch by Mr. Goodloe himself, which is pre- 
served among the papers of the Trinity College Historical Society. 



The spirit of the slavery legislation in the State of North 
Carolina conforms to the development that has been indi- 
cated. Before, and immediately after, 1800 many of the 
laws passed indicated a milder spirit. After that they 
became more austere till they finally partook of the spirit of 
harshness to which allusion has been made. But this devel- 
opment did not come because of deliberate cruelty on the 
part of the slave-owners. There are throughout the period 
of greatest restriction enough humane laws and more than 
enough humane custom to show the contrary. It came as 
a logical consequence of the conviction that the future 
development of Southern society as well as the safety of the 
Southern people demanded that slavery should be perpet- 
uated. Before this iron necessity every impulse to human- 
ity, every suggestion for a better elevated negro race, was 
made to fall. Now and again some sharp-eyed pro-slavery 
advocate would discover some way by which it was thought 
that the slave could lift himself out of slavery, and the way 
would be as promptly closed up. At one time it was teaching- 
slaves to read, again it was allowing negroes to preach to 
their race, again it was allowing free negroes to attend 
muster, and sometimes it was allowing a slave to hire his 
own time. In every case the Legislature was prompt with 
its veto. And yet it is certain that the feeling of the com- 
munity was not so harsh as these laws indicate. Severe 
laws were often not obeyed. Besides some other provi- 
sions of the law, the single case of the State vs. Will is suffi- 
cient evidence of this humaner feeling. This case is remark- 
able because it settled, in 1834, just at the time when the 

327] The Legal Status of the Slave. 11 

pro-slavery sentiment was in the flush of victory over the 
conservatives, the question that a slave had a right to defend 
himself against the apparently murderous attack of his 
master or overseer. Such a decision granted the slave all 
the rights of a moral conscience and gave the lie direct to 
the notion that the slave is not a person, the notion which 
underlay the Dred Scott decision. 

These two opposite tendencies of greater austerity and of 
greater sympathy within the bounds of slavery existed con- 
jointly throughout the period we have under consideration. 
In considering the legal status of slavery as well as the gen- 
eral social conditions of slaves, the reader will often remark 
the outcropping of one or both of them. 

The Slave in Court. — During the period of statehood the 
slave law of 1741 continued the basis of the law of slavery, 
although it was frequently modified. By this law two or 
more justices of the peace and four freeholders were con- 
stituted a court to hold the trial of a slave. 1 But in 1793 
(chap. 5) the slave received the additional security of being 
tried for offenses involving life, limb, or member before a 
jury of twelve slaveholders in open County Court, but "in 
a summary way." If, however, the County Court were not 
to meet in regular order in fifteen days after the arrest of the 
slave, the sheriff was to call a special court of three justices 
of the peace and twelve disinterested slaveholding jurymen, 
as before provided, and these were to have the powers 
of the County Court for the case at issue. The owner was 
to have notice and might defend his slave, and if the case 
went against the slave he paid the costs ; but if the master 
were unknown the slave was allowed counsel. What was 
meant by the expression "in a summary way" was defined 
in an explanatory act a year later (Laws of 1794, chap. 
11). It was at first intended doubtless that the court should 
not be bound by the ordinary rules of pleading. Now it 
was declared with more explicitness that the jury should 

1 See the author's " Slavery and Servitude in the Colony of North 
Carolina," pp. 28-29. 

12 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [328 

return a verdict on the evidence submitted by the Court, and 
that the Court should give judgment "agreeable to the ver- 
dict of the jury and the laws of the country." By this it 
seems that the penalties inflicted on white men for the crimes 
in question were extended to slaves convicted of the same 

Further guarantees of security were given in 1816 (chap. 
14) when it was provided that slaves charged with capital 
offenses should be tried in the Superior Courts ; and that 
the trial was to be conducted as the trial of a freeman, 
unless the charge were conspiracy. It was expressly stated 
that there must be a presentment by the grand jury; that the 
owner must be notified ; that the hearing might be removed to 
another county on affidavit of owner ; that an offense clergy- 
able for freemen was to be clergyable for slaves ; and that 
the slave with the advice of his master might challenge the 
jury for cause. Otherwise the trial was to follow the law of 
1777 (chap. 2) and that of 1779 (chap. 6). If the charge 
were conspiracy the trial was to be by special commission of 
Oyer and Terminer issued by the Governor to a Superior 
Court on the petition of five freeholders in the county in 
which the conspiracy was alleged to have occurred. Conspir- 
acy was an exceptional affair in reference to the slave; but 
for ordinary cases the status of the slaves improved steadily. 
In 1818 a slave on trial for his life was given the full right of 
a freeman to challenge jurors. 1 Thus in the matter of his life 
the standing of the slave approached nearly to that of the 

In 1820 a further distinction between the trial of a free- 
man and a slave was obviated when it was provided that 
v/hen a slave was convicted of a capital offense the costs 
should be paid by the county. 2 

Minor offenses were tried differently. By the law of 1741 
they were tried in the same way as capital offenses. But in 
1783 (chap. 14) it was enacted that a justice of the peace 

Revision of 1821, chap. 972. 2 Ibid., chap. 1073. 

329] The Legal Status of the Slave. 13 

before whom the case of a slave was brought should try the 
case at once, if it were less than a capital crime and if, in his 
judgment, the penalty ought not to be heavier than forty 
lashes. Such trial was to be "in a summary way." Cases 
between these minor cases and capital cases gradually 
came to be tried in the County Courts, as capital cases were 
to be tried in the Superior Court. Here also the trial was to 
be conducted "under the same rules, regulations and restric- 
cions as the trials of freemen ;" and the slave was entitled to 
a jury of slaveholders. 1 

The law as just stated remained in force till the war, with 
the difference that the cases hitherto left to the County 
Courts went now to one or more justices of the peace, if 
they chose to sit on the case, and the penalty was to be whip- 
ping not to exceed thirty-nine lashes on the bare back. 
Appeal was, by law of 1842 (chap. 3), to be allowed to the 
County or the Superior Court. Such offenses were what 
were called "inferior offenses" and crimes which if done 
by free persons would be cognizable in the County Court. 
Some of the "inferior offenses" ought to be mentioned. 
Among them were insolence to a free white person ; slan- 
dering a free white person, or trespassing on the property 
of such a person ; intermarrying or cohabiting with a free 
negro; having sexual intercourse or indulging in grossly 
indecent familiarity with a white female ; trying to teach a 
slave to read or to write — the use of figures excepted; 
exhorting or preaching or holding any other public religious 
service where slaves of different families were assembled ; 
playing cards, dice or nine-pins, or gambling for money, 
liquor or other property; raising cattle, hogs, horses, etc.; 
producing a forged pass or certificate of freedom, and some 
other offenses. Felonies and other offenses of slaves not 
given for trial to a justice of the peace were to be tried before 
the Superior Court in the manner of the trials of freemen 
and before juries of slave-owners. 2 Conspiracy to rebel was 

1 Revised Statutes, 1837, P- 582. 2 Revised Code, pp. 510-11. 

14 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [330 

also construed a felony and punishment was to be death or 

The payment of the owners for slaves executed by law 
was a hard matter to settle. At the beginning of statehood 
the State paid the owner for the slave, and in 1779 1 the 
Assembly fixed the maximum value of such a slave at £ 700, 
continental money, then much depreciated. In 1786 (chap. 
17) the Assembly repealed all acts allowing payment for 
executed slaves, since, as it declared, "many persons by cruel 
treatment of their slaves cause them to commit crimes for 
which many of the said slaves are executed." Masters now 
for financial reasons protected their slaves from prosecution, 
and there was a demand for a return to the old system. 
Formerly the burden had been borne by the whole State, 
and this was considered unfair to the counties which had 
few slaves. The final solution lay in local action. In 1796 
(chap. 27) seven eastern counties were authorized to lay a 
tax to pay for slaves executed within their respective bor- 
ders, the owner to receive two-thirds of the value of the 
slave, as estimated by the jury that pronounced him guilty. 
This amount, however, was not to be paid unless the jury 
was convinced that the owner had properly fed and clothed 
the delinquent slave. A tax for such a purpose was to be 
levied on the black polls of the county. This law seems to 
have worked well for within a few years several other coun- 
ties had been granted the same privileges. 

Runaways. — In the above section the development was in 
favor of a more humane treatment of a slave. There had 
been an honest desire to secure justice to the slave, and 
the graver offenses were put on the same basis as in the 
graver cases of freemen. It could be done because in no 
way was the perpetuity of slavery concerned. This was not 
true in regard to runaways. Such slaves threatened the very 
life of slavery. The law of colonial days on this subject had 
been stringent; and that was slightly modified after the 

1 Laws of 1779, 3d session, chap. 12. 

331] The Legal Status of the Slave. 15 

Revolution. Such enactments as were made had to do* 
chiefly with persons who aided runaways. Thus in 1779 
(1st session, chap. 11) it was made a capital felony to steal 
or seduce away a slave and this law remained in force till 
the war. 1 This probably referred to persons who stole 
slaves as property; but in the same act it was further pro- 
vided that whoever aided a runaway to escape should on 
conviction pay £ 100 to the owner of the fugitive and, in 
addition, whatever damages might be incurred. In 1793 
(chap. 5) it was made a capital felony for a ship captain to 
take, or knowingly allow others to take, a slave out of the 
State without the written consent of the slave's master. 

In the days of exasperation against the anti-slavery party 
in the North more stringent rules were made. From 1825 
till 1833 there were three laws passed, the substance of 
which was to make the stealing of a slave with the purpose 
of sending him out of the State, or the aiding of one to 
escape out of the State, a felony punishable by death. 2 This 
law remained in effect till i860. 3 This was no doubt aimed 
at Northern men bent on working the Underground Rail- 
way. For ordinary cases of persuading slaves to run away 
or for harboring runaways one should on conviction pay the 
owner of the slave a fine of $100 and damages and be liable 
to fine of $100 more, and might furthermore be indicted and 
fined another $100 and imprisoned not more than six 
months. 4 The latter amendments were passed in 182 1 and 

The Slave's Right to Hunt. — Here, too, the question of the 
perpetuity of slavery was involved. For slaves to hunt with 
a gun jeopardized the masters' lives. Throughout the period 
of statehood there was no disposition to relax the strict pro- 
hibition of this practice. Anyone who found a slave so 
hunting might take the gun for his own use and carry the 

1 Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sec. 10, and Revised Code, chap. 34, 
sec. 10. 2 Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sec. 11. 

3 Revised Code, chap. 34, sec. 11. 

*Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sec. 73, and Revised Code, chap. 34, 
sec. 81. 

16 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [332 

slave to the nearest constable who should at once give the 
slave twenty lashes on his bare back and the owner should 
pay the same reward as was paid for taking up a runaway. 1 

The Slave's Right to Travel and Trade. — The patrol, which 
had been established in 1753, 2 became steadily a more per- 
manent institution as the people became more convinced of 
the necessity of keeping slavery unassailed. In 1779 (3d 
session, chap. 8) it was required to make a general search 
once a month and to report to the County Court. Slaves 
off their masters' plantations on Sunday were to be arrested, 
unless they had passes or were in the company of a white 
man. In 1794 (chap. 4) it was provided that the patrol 
should be appointed by the County Court whenever it 
should think necessary. No more than six men should be 
appointed to the district of each militia captain. The patrol 
was to be in office one year, was to have stipulated fees and 
one-half of the money from fines under this act of 1794, and 
was to be exempt from road and jury duty. Two patrolmen 
going together were to cover a district at least once a fort- 
night. They might whip — not to exceed fifteen lashes — 
slaves found off their master's land without permission. 

In 1802 there was an alarm over a reported slave insur- 
rection in Bertie and adjoining counties. This induced the 
Assembly to provide a still more efficient patrol. 3 The 
County Court was now authorized to appoint patrolers in 
such numbers and under such rules as it might think neces- 
sary, the patrolers retaining the powers and privileges con- 
ferred by the act of 1794. To support the patrol the County 
Court was given the authority to levy a special tax of one 
shilling on each black poll. In the same year (1802, chap. 
68) the militia of Gates, Pasquotank, and Camden Counties 
were constituted a patrol. The captains were directed to 
divide their companies into squads of four or five men who 

1 Revised Statutes, chap, ill, sec. 23, and Revised Code, chap. 107, 
sec. 26. 
'See author's "Slavery and Servitude," p. 38. 
8 Laws of 1802, chap. 15. 

North Carolina State Library 

333] The Legal Status of the Slave. 17 

were to search their respective neighborhoods once in three 
weeks and to whip slaves found at large. 

No further change was made in the patrol till 1830 (chap. 
16, sees. 1 and 14) when the County Court was given author- 
ity to appoint, if it saw fit, a Patrol Committee of three per- 
sons in each captain's district who might appoint as many 
patrolers as they thought necessary, provided that this 
should not prevent the County Court from appointing 
patrols as they saw fit. The patrol was now given large 
powers of arrest. The patrolers were enjoined to visit sus- 
pected places, to disperse assemblages of slaves, to be dili- 
gent in arresting runaways, to detect thefts, and to report 
persons who traded with slaves. The patrol, or any two of 
them, should "have such powers as may be necessary to a 
proper discharge of the duties herein enjoined," ran the law. 
If a negro who was being whipped was insolent to them he 
might be further punished not to exceed thirty-nine lashes 
in all. The Patrol Committee was given power to dis- 
charge patrolers and to appoint others in the vacancies. To 
refuse to serve on the patrol was punished by a fine of $2(3, 
to go to the support of the patrol, and in 1835 (chap. 
22) it was enacted that persons who refused or neglected to 
perform the duties of this office should be fined $25. 1 

There was more than one reason why masters did not 
want their slaves to meet at slave-meetings about the neigh- 
borhood. It afforded opportunity for concocting mischief; 
and it demoralized the slaves by bringing them into contact 
with the worst negroes of the community, by keeping them 
up till late at night, and by giving them a desire for idle- 
ness. Accordingly the laws were always against such slave- 
meetings. In 1779 (2d session, chap. 10) it was enacted that 
an ordinary keeper who entertained slaves against their 
master's will should forfeit his license. In 1794 (chap. 4) it 
was declared that no person should permit any negroes, bond 

x See Revised Statutes, chap. 86; also Tate vs. Neale, 1 Hawks, 
418, and Revised Code, chap. 83. 

18 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [334 

or free, to meet on his property for drinking or dancing on 
penalty of fine of £. 10. 

The commonest crime of slaves in all ages is no doubt 
theft. The negro has been called thievish by nature. Cer- 
tainly in American slavery he showed a decided tendency 
to petty thievishness, so that it was necessary to throw a 
great deal of legal restraint around his petty business rela- 
tions with others. Various laws were passed on this sub- 
ject. A slave must not trade with any other person without 
the written consent of his master, the article for which per- 
mission to trade was given being expressly specified. 1 
Between 1826 and 1833 a series of laws enumerated the arti- 
cles which slaves might not sell without the consent of their 
masters. These were articles raised on the farm, tools, food 
supplies, and articles prepared for sale, as staves, cloth, and 
gold and silver bullion. Other persons were forbidden to 
sell anything at all to slaves ; provided, however, that this 
should not hold when slaves traded with the written permis- 
sion of their masters between sunrise and sunset, Sunday 
excepted ; but this proviso was not to apply to the sale of 
spirituous liquors, arms, and ammunition, unless they were 
for the master's own use. 2 How rigidly this law was enforced 
may be seen from the fact that in 1846 (chap. 42) it was 
enacted that this section should not be construed to mean 
that the master of a slave was not to give him these prohib- 
ited articles to carry from one place to another. 3 Further 
indication of the rigidness of the law is seen in the statement 
of what should be considered presumptive evidence in such 
a case. It was enacted in 1826 (chap. 13, sec. 6) that if a 
slave should be found in a place used for trade between nine 
o'clock and daybreak, or at any time unless his master sent 
him ; or, if a slave should stay in such a place, unless sent 
thither by his master, for fifteen minutes with the door shut ; 
or if he should come out of such a place with articles which 

1 Laws of 1779, 1st session, chap. 11, and 1788, chap. 6. 

2 Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sees. 75-78. 

3 Revised Code, chap. 34, sees. 83-92. 

335] The Legal Status of the Slave. 19 

might have been purchased therein ; it should be presump- 
tive evidence against him. 1 Shipmasters, many of whom 
were from the North, were forbidden to entertain negroes 
or mulattoes, slaves or freemen, on their ships between sun- 
set and sunrise or on Sunday, unless the said negroes had 
permission from their masters or from a justice of the peace, 
or unless they were employed on board. 2 Negroes who 
violated this law were presumed to be disposing of stolen 

Of a somewhat similar nature was the custom of allowing 
a slave to hire his own time. This was a practice by which 
a slave paid his owner a certain sum of money for his own 
time and then followed some line of work in which he was 
proficient. The more industrious negroes who had trades, 
as blacksmiths, carpenters and bricklayers, often did this. 
From one hundred to one hundred and fifty dollars a year 
was the amount usually paid by a slave for his own time. 
Most slaves who hired their time did it with the intention 
of buying their freedom, and many of them accomplished 
their purpose. The practice gave the slave more liberty of 
action and it was considered undesirable both because it 
increased the number of free negroes and because it removed 
the slave so hiring from the strict control of the whites. 
Accordingly it was enacted as early as 1794 (chap. 4) that 
no slave should hire his time on penalty of being hired out 
for a year by the sheriff at the direction of the County Court, 
the proceeds to go to the poor. There is good reason to 
believe that this law was not generally executed, but it 
remained on the statute book throughout the period of 
slavery. 3 Neither should a slave be allowed to go about 
as a freeman, using his own discretion as to his employ- 

1 Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sec. 78, and Revised Code, chap. 34, 
sec. 88. 

2 Revised Statutes, chap. 34, sec. 76, and Revised Code, chap. 34, 
sec. 93. 

3 Revised Statutes, chap, in, sec. 31, and Revised Code, chap. 107, 
sec. 28. 

20 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [336 

ment or living in a house to himself and remote from other 
slaves, as a freeman, even though his master should con- 
sent. 1 

The Slave's Right to Life. — In 1774 it was enacted that a 
person who willfully killed a slave should be imprisoned a 
year for the first offense and suffer death for the second. 2 
In 1791 it was further enacted that if a person should be 
convicted of maliciously killing a slave he should on the 
first conviction be held guilty of murder and should "suffer 
the same punishment as if he had killed a freeman." But 
in 1801, in the case of the State vs. Boon, this law was 
declared inoperative on the ground that the clause which 
fixed the penalty was ambiguous. There were, it was said, 
various ways of punishing freemen for murder. Since the 
law left a shade of uncertainty in the penalty the prisoner 
was entitled to the doubt and in this case was released. 3 
Two of the five judges of the court gave it as their opinion 
that the malicious killing of a slave was murder at com- 
mon law, and the three others did not contradict the 
opinion. It is possible that it was under this influence that 
such a principle began to be held by the courts, since Chief 
Justice Taylor declared in 1820 that if a white person killed 
a slave under such circumstances as constituted murder he 
might have been punished for that offense. 4 A difficulty 
arose, however, if the case could be extenuated to man- 
slaughter. No punishment was provided for that offense, and 
the prisoner was uniformly discharged. The Assembly, 
accordingly, in 1817 enacted that "the killing of a slave 
shall partake of the same degree of guilt, when accompanied 
with like circumstances, that homicide now does." This, 
the Court held in 1820, 5 was designed "to make the homi- 
cide of a slave, extenuated by a legal provocation, man- 

1 Revised Statutes, chap. 111, sec. 32, and Revised Code, chap. 107, 
sec. 29. 

2 See the author's " Slavery and Servitude," p. 43. 
'North Carolina Reports, vol. 1, p. 103 (edition of 1896). 
4 Hawks's Law, p. 217. 5 Ibid., p. 210, State vs. Tackett. 

337] The Legal Status of the Slave. 21 

slaughter." After stating the common law in regard to 
manslaughter the Court added that in the very nature of 
slavery "many acts will extenuate the homicide of a slave, 
which would not constitute a legal provocation if done by a 
white person." The defining of these acts was not 
attempted, but it was presumed that the Court and jury 
would estimate them seriously in individual cases, with due 
regard to the rights of slaves and white men — "to the just 
claims of humanity, and to the supreme law, the safety of 
the citizens." 

In 1823 the Supreme Court in the case of the State vs. 
Reed, declared directly that the killing of a slave might be 
tried as murder at common law, Chief Justice Taylor and 
Justice Henderson acquiescing and Justice Hall dissenting. 
The grounds of the decision were the law of Nature and 
Christianity. Justice Henderson made the very substantial 
statement that the law of slavery gave the master the con- 
trol of the services of the slave and that it would be not 
too scrupulous in adjusting the means of enforcing these 
services. "But the life of a slave being in no ways necessary 
to be placed in the powers of the owner for the full enjoy- 
ment of his services the law takes care of that ; and with me 
it has no weight to show that, by the laws of ancient Rome 
or modern Turkey, an absolute power is given to the mas- 
ter over the life of his slave. I answer, these are not the 
laws of our country, nor the mode from which they were 
taken. It is abhorrent to the hearts of all those who have 
felt the influence of the mild precepts of Christianity." The 
argument of Justice Hall was on the basis that the slave 
is a chattel. Now if a slave be killed the law provides that 
the owner has an action for trespass against the slayer. But 
if killing a slave be murder at common law the offender 
would be answerable both civiliter and criminaliter. The 
Legislature could not have intended to create such a condi- 
tion. Besides, the Legislature in 1774 (chap. 31) passed a 
law to punish the killing of a slave. If such an offense had 

22 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [338 

been cognizable at common law the Legislature need not 
have made a statute on the subject. 1 

The effect of this decision was modified shortly after- 
wards in the case of the State vs. Hoover, where it was 
held that if a slave died from moderate chastisement of his 
master every circumstance which in the general course of 
slavery might have hurried the master to excess would be 
tenderly regarded by the law. But where the punishment 
was barbarously immoderate and accompanied by painful 
privation of food, clothing, and rest, it is not correction in 
foro domestico, indicates deliberate killing, and is therefore 
murder. 2 

The next question to be taken up in this connection was 
that of the culpability of a white man who cruelly beat a 
slave. In 1823, in the case of the State vs. Hale, 3 it was held 
that a battery committed on a slave, no justifying circum- 
stances being shown, was an indictable offense. But it was 
explicitly stated that circumstances which would not justify 
a battery on a free person might in the nature of slavery 
justify an assault on a slave. "The offenses," said the 
Chief Justice in a sentence which casts a clear light on one 
phase of slavery in the South, "are usually committed by 
men of dissolute habits, hanging loose upon society, who, 
being repelled from association with well-disposed citizens, 
take refuge in the company of colored persons and slaves 
whom they deprave by their example, embolden by their 
familiarity, and then beat, under the expectation that a slave 
dare not resent a blow from a white man." This principle 
did not apply, however, to the assault of a master on his 
slave. This latter case was taken up in 1829 in the case of 
the State vs. Mann, 4 when it was decided that a master was 
not to be indicted for battery on his slave, that he who has 

1 North Carolina Reports (new edition), vol. 9, p. 454. 

2 See 4 Devereaux and Battle, p. 365. 

3 Ibid., p, 582. Here the defendant is called Hale. Later cases 
cite this case as State vs. Hall. 
* North Carolina Reports (new edition), 13, p. 263. 

339] The Legal Status of the Slave. 23 

a right to the services of a slave has a right to all the means 
of controlling his conduct that belong to the owner, and 
that this rule would apply to the hirer of a slave. The 
decision was given by Justice Ruffin. Although, as he 
affirmed, there was no question about a master's right to 
inflict any kind of corporal punishment short of death on 
his slave, he still stated the general grounds for such a 
principle. There had been no prosecutions of masters for 
such an offense. Against this general opinion of the com- 
munity the Court ought not to hold. It was erroneously 
said that the relation of master and slave was like that of 
parent and child, and it was held that a parent could not 
commit a cruel battery on his own son. The object of the 
training of a son was the life of a freeman, and the means to 
be used was moral and intellectual instruction. With 
slavery it was otherwise. "The end," ran the decision, "is 
the profit of the master, his security and the public safety; 
the subject, one doomed in his own person and his posterity, 
to live without knowledge and without the capacity to 
make anything his own, and to toil that another may reap 
the fruits. What moral considerations shall be addressed 
to such a being to convince him what it is impossible but 
that the most stupid must feel and know can never be true — 
that he is thus to labor upon a principle of natural duty, or 
for the sake of his own personal happiness. Such services 
can only be expected from one who has no will of his own, 
who surrenders his will in implicit obedience to that of 
another. Such obedience is the consequence only of uncon- 
trolled authority over the body. There is nothing else 
which can operate to produce the effect. The power of the 
master must be absolute to render the submission of the 
slave perfect. I most freely confess my sense of the harsh- 
ness of this proposition. I feel it as deeply as any man 
can ; and as a principle of moral right every person in his 
retirement must repudiate it. But in the actual conditions 
of things it must be so. There is no remedy. This disci- 
pline belongs to the state of slavery. They [the discipline 

24 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [340 

and slavery] cannot be disunited without abrogating at 
once the rights of the master and absolving the slave from 
his subjection. It constitutes the curse of slavery to both 
the bond and free portion of our population. * * * 
The slave, to remain a slave, must be made sensible that 
there is no appeal from his master; that his power is in no 
instance usurped ; but is conferred by the laws of man at 
least, if not by the laws of God." The Courts could not 
fix the punishment due to the violations of duty by the 
slave. "No man can anticipate the many and aggravated 
provocations of the master to which the slave would be con- 
stantly stimulated by his own passions or the instigations 
of others to give, or the consequent wrath of the master 
prompting him to bloody vengeance upon the turbulent 
traitor — a vengeance generally practiced with impunity 
because of its privacy." I do not think that One can find 
anywhere in the annals of modern justice a decision more 
brutally logical, and more void of that genial spirit of pro- 
gressive amelioration which should run through a legal 
development. Justice Rufhn announced his own horror 
of the decision he was giving and consoled himself with 
the thought that the softening feeling of the masters in 
general for the slaves was increasing and with the decreas- 
ing numbers of the slaves, would eventually enable the 
relations of slavery to be more humane — a result more 
likely to come in this way "than from any rash expositions 
of abstract truths by a judiciary tainted with a false and 
fanatical philanthropy." Was it not the duty of the Court 
to give such a decision that would help on the humaniz- 
ing process by giving the Courts the right to restrain exces- 
sive cruelty of masters towards slaves rather than by crys- 
tallizing into a judicial opinion the brutal theory of the 
harshest days of slavery to scotch the wheels of the progress 
that it was desired to see abroad? 

It was fortunate for the slave, it was fortunate for the 
State, that this spirit was not permanent in the Supreme 

341] The Legal Status of the Slave. 25 

Court decisions. In 1834 the case of the State vs. Will, 1 
established the distinctly milder principle that a slave who 
was barbarously attacked by his master might defend him- 
self with physical force. The facts of the case were these : 
Will was a slave who became angry because another slave 
was allowed to use a hoe which Will used and had helved 
in his own time. In his rage he broke the helve and went to 
his work. When the overseer knew of it he took his gun 
and rode to the place at which Will was at work. He called 
the slave to him, who approached humbly with his hat off. 
Some words were exchanged when Will began to run. Then 
the overseer fired, making a wound in the back of the 
fugitive which might have proved fatal. The terrified slave 
was pursued and caught by the overseer and two slaves, 
but in the struggle of arrest he cut the overseer with a 
pocket knife so that the overseer bled to death. All the cir- 
cumstances showed that Will had acted in supposed self- 
defense. His plea was manslaughter — one of his counsel 
was B. F. Moore, 2 then young and unknown, but after- 
wards one of the leading lawyers of the State. At the out- 
set Mr. Moore was confronted by Judge Ruffin's opinion in 
the case of the State vs. Mann. These sentiments he dis- 
tinctly challenged. "It is humbly submitted," said he, "that 
they are not only abhorrent and startling to humanity, but 
at variance with statute and decided cases." Judge Hender- 
son's opinion in the State vs. Reed was quoted to show that 
the master's power extends only to the services of his slave. 
Point by point Judge Ruffin's opinion so far as it related 
to the general relation of master and slave was combated. 
One eloquent passage will indicate the nature of the attack. 
Judge Ruffin had said that the slave must be made to 
realize that in no one instance was the master's power 
usurped. This, exclaimed Mr. Moore, repressed thought 

1 See "The Trinity College Historical Society Papers," series II, 
p. 12; also 1 Devereaux and Battle, p. 121. 

2 Mr. G. W. Mordecai was also associated with the defense, but 
Mr. Moore's argument won the case. 

26 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [342 

and "reduced into perfect tameness the instinct of self- 
preservation," a result difficult to accomplish and lament- 
able if accomplished. But if the relation of slavery required 
"that the slave shall be disrobed of the essential features 
that distinguish him from the brute, the relation must adapt 
itself to the consequences and leave its subjects the 
instinctive privileges of a brute. I am arguing no question 
of abstract right, but am endeavoring to prove that the 
natural incidents of slavery must be borne with because 
they are inherent to the condition itself ; and that any attempt 
to punish the slave for the exercise of a right which even 
absolute power cannot destroy is inhuman and without the 
slightest benefit to the security of the master or to that of 
society at large. The doctrine may be advanced from the 
bench, enacted by the Legislature, and enforced with all the 
varied agony of torture and still the slave cannot believe 
and will not believe that there is no instance in which the 
master's power is usurped. Nature, stronger than all, will 
discover many instances and vindicate her rights at any and 
at every price. When such a stimulant as this urges the 
forbidden deed punishment will be powerless to proclaim 
or to warn by example. It can serve no purpose but to 
gratify the revengeful feelings of one class of people and to 
influence the hidden animosities of the other." 

The opinion was written by Justice Gaston, who two 
years earlier had said in a public address : "Disguise the 
truth as we may, and throw the blame where we will, it is 
slavery which, more than any other cause, keeps us back 
in the career of improvement." 1 Now he showed him- 
self a humane judge : He said : "Unconditional submis- 
sion is, in general, the duty of the slave ; unquestioned legal 
power is, in general, the right of the master. Unquestion- 
ably there are exceptions to this rule. It is certain that the 
master has not the right to slay his slave, and I hold it to 
be equally certain that the slave has the right to defend 
himself against the unlawful attempt of his master to deprive 

1 Address at Chapel Hill, June 20, 1832, p. 24. 

343] The Legal Status of the Slave. 27 

him of life. There may be other exceptions, but in a matter 
so full of difficulties, where reason and humanity plead 
with almost irresistible force on one side, and a necessary 
policy, rigorous indeed, but inseparable from slavery, urges 
on the other, I fear to err should I undertake to define 
them." Neither would he define legal provocation, but he 
did say that a slave's unlawful violence excited by his mas- 
ter's inhumanity ought not to be construed as malice. "The 
prisoner," said the Court, "is a human being, degraded by 
slavery, but yet having organs, senses, dimensions, passions 
like our own." No malice was shown in the evidence and 
the killing was pronounced manslaughter. It was a notable 
case and it fixed a humaner spirit in the law of slavery in 
North Carolina until the end of that institution. 

But one more case before the Supreme Court will be 
mentioned, that of the State vs. Jarrot, 1 in 1840. It was 
declared, that the difference between homicide through 
malice and homicide through passion was to hold as much 
in the trial of a slave as in that of a white man ; but the same 
matters which would be sufficient provocation for a free- 
man would not be sufficient when a slave had killed a white 
man. Some words of a slave might be so aggravating as 
to arouse the temporary fury which negatives the charge 
of malice, "and this rule holds without regard to personal 
merit or demerit of the white man." The insolence of a 
slave would justify a white man in giving him moderate 
chastisement at the moment, but would not authorize an 
excessive battery, or moderate correction after the insolence 
was past. The rule that where two parties become angry 
and fight on equal terms till one kills the other the crime 
is manslaughter is not to apply to slaves, but to equals only, 
it being the slave's business to avoid such a contest. But 
if the battery endangers the slave's life it will reduce homi- 
cide by him to manslaughter. 2 

'North Carolina Reports, 23, p. 75. 

2 This decision also was written by Judge Gaston. 

28 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [344 

In regard to the slave's legal status a curious case has 
come under my notice. The late Dr. John Manning, widely 
known as Professor of Law at the State University, told 
me that Judge Rumn, the senior, told him that a case was 
once decided in the North Carolina Supreme Court in which 
it was held that a white man could not be convicted of forni- 
cation and adultery with a slave woman, because such a 
woman had no standing in the courts. The case, said Judge 
Rumn, was decided early in this century, but it was agreed 
that in the interest of public morality it should not be pub- 
lished. 1 

1 Inquiry of the Clerk of the Supreme Court fails to discover the 
papers in reference to the case ; but since there is no other index to 
the Supreme Court cases than the printed reports it is quite possible 
that the papers are preserved, but so lost among a vast number of 
documents thatonly a long and careful search would bring them to light. 



Emancipation. — During the colonial period emancipation 
was forbidden except for meritorious conduct to be 
adjudged by the County Court, 1 and this law was confirmed 
by the Assembly in 1777 (chap. 6) and further explained 
in 1796 (chap. 5). 2 At the beginning of the Revolution 
"some evil-minded persons intending to disturb the pub- 
lic peace" liberated their slaves and left them at large in the 
community. The authorities in Perquimons and Pasquo- 
tank counties took up the negroes and resold them into 
slavery. The Legislature confirmed these sales and pro- 
vided that other such slaves at large might be sold in the 
same way ; provided, however, that this law did not extend 
to such of these negroes as had enlisted in the patriot army. 3 

These slaves had been freed by the Quakers, who were at 
that time very active in favor of emancipation. Their 
liberated slaves were going about, said the Assembly, "to 
the terror of the people of the State." The law which for- 
bade their liberation was a failure, because it left the duty 
of informing of its violation to freeholders only and made 
their action optional. To remedy this condition the 
Assembly in 1788 (chap. 20) gave the duty of informing 
on such liberated slaves to any freeman, and thus secured 
the co-operation of the landless whites who were usually 
strangely willing to have a fling at the slaves and who, no 

1 See the author's " Slavery and Servitude," pp. 64-66. 

2 When the Superior Courts were created the judging of meritorious 
conduct was left to them. Revisal of 1821, chap. 971. 

3 Laws of 1779, 2d session, chap. 12. 


30 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [346 

doubt, were anxious to get the reward offered for such infor- 

After the San Domingo revolt in 1791 much concern was 
felt in the Southern States lest the success of the slaves there 
should inspire attempts at insurrection in the United States. 
Several new features of the slave law were added, one of 
which provided that no slave should be liberated unless he 
could give bond in the sum of £200 that he would remain 
quiet and orderly. 1 

In 1830 (chap. 9) it was made more difficult to emanci- 
pate. Now, the petitioner must notify his intention at the 
court house and in the State Gazette six weeks before the 
hearing of the petition ; he must give bond with two sureties 
for $1000 that the said slave should conduct himself well 
as long as he or she remained in the State, that the slave 
would leave the State within ninety days after liberation, 
and the said liberation should invalidate the rights of no 
creditor. Executors of wills by which slaves were directed 
to be liberated must secure consent of the courts and take 
steps to send the negroes out of the State and guard against 
the loss of creditors. A slave more than fifty years old 
might be liberated for meritorious conduct to be approved 
by the Court without subsequently leaving the State, pro- 
vided that the master swore that the emancipation was not 
for money and that he gave bond that the negro would 
conduct himself well and not become a charge on the 
county. No slave was to be liberated except by this law. 2 
This law remained in force till the war. 3 Within the strict 
conditions herein embraced, ruled the Supreme Court in 
1841, it was the policy to facilitate emancipation. 4 Besides 
this method, slaves were occasionally freed by special Act 
of the Assembly. 

1 Laws of 1795, chap. 16. 
1 Revised Statutes, chap, in, sees. 57-64. 
3 Revised Code, chap. 107, sees. 45-53. 

4 Cameron vs. Commissioners of Raleigh (the Rex Will Case), 
1 Iredell's Eq., p. 436. 

347] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 31 

Among the various cases reported from the Supreme 
Court in regard to emancipation there are several from 
which the point is obtained that the freedom of slaves could 
be acquired through prescription. For instance, it was held 
that when a woman who had once been a slave, but who for 
thirty years or more, had been treated as a free person, and 
her daughter with her, then a granddaughter must be free ; 
for it would be proper to infer that so long an enjoyment 
of freedom must have followed legal emancipation. It was 
not attempted to fix the time necessary to constitute such 
liberation by prescription ; but in the cases cited thirty and 
forty years are the periods mentioned. 1 

In Sampson vs. Burgwin 2 a decided tenderness for the 
slave is observed in the Court. Here suit was brought to 
invalidate the emancipation of a slave, because, being but two 
years old when liberated and being freed along with her 
mother, she could not have performed meritorious ser- 
vices. The Court held that the act of liberation was that 
of "a court of conclusive jurisdiction, and could not be 
impeached by evidence that she had not and could not per- 
form such services." It also decided that a petition of an 
owner to free slaves need not be in writing, and that "in 
an action by a negro to try his right to freedom if evidence 
of his being reputed to be a freeman is offered it is admis- 
sible to show in reply acts of ownership inconsistent with 
reputation." The opinion was by Ruffm, Chief Justice. 

Granting permission to liberate was not liberation, as was 
held in the case of Bryan vs. Wadsworth. 3 Here Elizabeth 
Bryan, of Craven County, had in 1808 received permis- 
sion from the County Court to liberate her slave Abram 
for meritorious services and gave the bond required for 
the same ; but further she did not go. She kept Abram 
as a slave till 1820, when she sold him. He then sued for 

1 Brookfield vs. Stuart, 6 Jones, p. 156; Cully vs. Jones, 9 Iredell, 
p. 168; Strange vs. Burnham, 12 Iredell, p. 41. 
2 3 Devereaux and Battle's Law, p. 28. 
3 1 Devereaux and Battle's Law, p. 384. 

32 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [348 

his freedom. He lost the case. It was held that only the 
master could emancipate and that the Court only gave per- 
mission to emancipate. 

The harshness of the law led to various subterfuges in 
regard to emancipation. It was attempted to hold slaves 
in nominal servitude, but in real freedom. This was opposed 
for the general reason that it increased the free negro class 
and whenever a case involving such a trick came before the 
Supreme Court it was severely handled. A case in point 
was that of the Quakers, which arose as follows : In 1817 
William Dickinson conveyed a slave to the trustees of the 
Quaker society of Contentnea, to be held in a kind of 
guardianship, to be kept at work but to receive the profits 
of his labor, and ultimately to be free when his freedom 
could be effected by the laws of the State. In 1827 the 
matter was before the Supreme Court. It was in evidence 
that nothing was said about sending the slave out of the 
State when he should be freed. On the contrary it seemed 
to be the purpose of the parties to keep him in the State 
till free, and then to let him go where he would. The 
opinion was by Taylor, Chief Justice. He declared that the 
practice of the Quakers was emancipation in everything but 
name. By statute a religious society could hold property 
for its use only, and in a conveyance to it for a purpose 
forbidden by the policy of the laws nothing was passed. 
That the Quakers did not hold this slave, or other slaves, for 
their own use was shown by the fact that slaveholding was 
against their well-known principles. Justice Hall dissented. 
He thought a religious society might hold personal 
property unlimitedly and seems not to have approved of the 
law which fixed such stringent measures against emanci- 
pation. 1 Regardless of this decision, as will be seen later on, 
the Quakers, as a society, continued to hold slaves for pur- 
poses of emancipation. 

A case not unlike this occurred in 1822, when Collier 
Hill left slaves to four trustees, one of whom was "Richard 

Contentnea Society vs. Dickinson, 1 Devereaux, p. 189. 

349] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 33 

Graves, of the Methodist Church," with the injunction to 
keep the said slaves for such purposes as "they [the trus- 
tees] shall judge most for the glory of God and the good of 
the said slaves." The case came before the Supreme Court, 
and the opinion declared that such a bequest, "when it could 
be fairly collected from other parts of the will that the tes- 
tator did not mean by the bequest any personal benefit to 
the legatees, was held to constitute them trustees for the 
purpose of emancipation," and as such purpose was illegal 
it was held that the trustees take the property in trust for 
the legal heirs. 1 

In all these cases the cast-iron necessity of keeping 
slavery unbendingly confined to its present condition, cut- 
ting off the least tendency to amelioration, is clearly seen. 
Slavery absolute — nothing short of it — and as few free 
negroes as possible ; that was the idea. 

As time passed this feature of the law became harder. 
Most severe was a case before the Court in 1849. The facts 
were these. William Quarry, of Mecklenberg, conveyed by 
deed absolute to Peoples and others a slave woman Linney, 
who was married to a freeman. Desiring that she might con- 
tinue to live with her husband he conveyed to the same 
parties twelve acres of land with a house on it, presumably 
for her use. No consideration was paid, although it 
was duly acknowledged. The defendants claimed that they 
were absolute owners, that the donor conveyed the woman 
and her family to provide for her comfort and to prevent 
the division of the family. They allowed the husband to 
occupy the house with his wife for a certain rent. They 
took her and her children under their personal care and 
agreed to control their conduct. Yet the arrangement 
would not do at all. It was, said the Court, qualified 
slavery, and the conveyance was void. Linney and her 
children were given to the heirs of the donor, and, moreover, 

1 Huckaby vs. Jones, 2 Hawks, p. 720. See also Stephens vs. Ely, 
1 Devereaux's Equity, p. 497. 

34 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [350 

the donees were held liable, "with just deductions," for the 
profits due from her services while in their hands, and 
because the defendants had attempted to defraud the law 
they were to pay the costs. 1 

Severe as these cases seem the Court showed that within 
the range of the fact that the free negro class must not be 
extended they were disposed to be as humane as possible. 
In the case of Redding vs. Long, 2 a grantor had given slaves 
in trust during his lifetime and directed the trustee to send 
them to Liberia after the grantor's death, if they wanted to 
go. The Court declared that this will was not against the 
spirit of the laws. "Though slaves have no capacity to make 
contracts," said the Court, "yet they have both mental and 
moral capacity to make election between remaining here 
and being slaves, and leaving the State and being free." 

Free Negroes. — Slaveholders disliked and feared free 
negroes because they demoralized the quiet conduct of the 
slaves. These negroes were under no direct control of the 
white man. They might aid the slaves in planning a revolt, 
in disposing of stolen property, in running away, and in any 
other act of defiance. Privilege after privilege was with- 
drawn from them. At first they hao. most of the rights and 
duties of the poor white man ; they fought in the Revolu- 
tionary armies, mustered in the militia, voted in the elec- 
tions, and had the liberty to go where they chose. At 
length they lost their right to vote; their service in the 
militia was restricted to that of musicians ; and the patrol 
came more and more to limit their freedom of travel. Taxes 
and road duty alone of all their functions of citizenship 
were at last preserved. The story of the appearance of these 
progressive limitations is not a pleasant one. 

It was in 1787 (chap. 6) that the Assembly enacted that 
no free negro should entertain a slave at his house at night 
or on Sunday, on penalty of fine. If the fine was not paid 
the culprit was to be hired out long enough to pay it. The 

1 Lemmond vs. Peoples, 6 Iredell's Equity, p. 137. 
*4 Jones' Equity, p. 216, 

351] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 35 

same law forbade a free negro to marry or to cohabit with 
a slave without the written consent of the master, and in 
1830 (chap. 4, sec. 3) such relations were forbidden even 
though the master gave his written consent, and the penalty 
for violation was thirty-nine lashes. 1 In 1795 (chap. 16) 
free negroes who settled in the State were required to give 
bond of £200 for their good behavior, in default of which 
they were sold by the sheriff for the benefit of the public. 
In 1826 (chap. 13) a free, negro was forbidden to be on a 
ship at night, or on Sunday, without a pass from a justice 
of the peace, unless, indeed, he were employed there; but 
the punishment for a violation of this law fell on the captain 
of the ship. Neither must a free negro trade with a slave, 
and a free negro must have a license from the County Court 
to hawk or peddle. 2 

The collection of fines from free negroes was often diffi- 
cult, and in 183 1 (chap. 13) the Legislature enacted that 
when the Court had reason to believe that a free negro 
could not pay the fine imposed upon him it might direct that 
he be hired out to the highest bidder for a time long enough 
to pay the fine. The bidder who bid the shortest time took 
the negro. The relation between hirer and hired was to be 
the same as that between master and apprentice. A free 
negro was not to be hired out in this way for a longer term 
than five years. If a longer term was the lowest bid the fine 
was to be reduced to an amount which five years' service 
would satisfy. 3 Later it was thought necessary to provide 
that such a free negro should be well supplied with food, 
clothing, medicine and lodging; that he should be kept 
employed in some useful and industrious occupation, that 
he should not be taken from the county during service, and 

1 State vs. Fore, 1 Iredell, p. 378. 

2 Laws of 1830, chap. 7, and 1831, chap. 28. 

3 The constitutionality of this law was questioned but it was upheld 
by the Supreme Court. See State vs. Oxendine, 1 Devereaux and 
Battle, p. 435, and State vs. Manuel, 4 Devereaux and Battle, 
p. 20. 

36 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [352 

that he should be produced in Court at the end of his ser- 
vice or oftener, if so ordered by the Court. 1 

In 1826 (chap. 21) the relation of the free negro to the 
State was pretty thoroughly restated by law. With free 
negroes were now to be included all persons of negro blood 
to the fourth generation inclusive, though one ancestor in 
each generation may have been white. 2 It was declared that 
no free negro should move into the State ; and if one did so 
and did not leave within twenty days after being notified 
of the provisions of this law he should be fined $500, or held 
to labor for ten years or less. After paying such a penalty 
he must leave within thirty days or suffer a repetition of the 
punishment. He who brought in a free negro to settle in 
the State should pay a fine of $500. 3 Any able-bodied free 
negro "found spending his or her time in idleness and dissi- 
pation, or having no regular or honest employment," was 
to be arrested and made to give bond for good behavior, in 
default of which he or she was to be hired out for such a 
term as the court might think "reasonable and just and 
calculated to reform him or her to habits of industry or 
morality, not exceeding three years for any one offense." 
Furthermore the Courts might bind out the children of such 
free negroes who were not industriously and honestly em- 
ployed. Persons hiring free negroes under this act were 
required to furnish them with proper food and clothing, 
to treat them humanely, and to teach them some trade or 
other useful employment. In the later days of slavery 4 the 
hirer was to give bond to perform this duty, and on failure 
he was to pay the negro the amount of the bond, and also to 
lose his services and be liable for a misdemeanor. A further 
check was placed on the number of free negroes in 1830 

1 Revised Code, chap. 107, sec. 77. 

2 See State vs. Dempsy, 9 Iredell, p. 384. 

3 It was under the operation of this law that Lunsford Lane was 
driven from the State. Seethe author's "Anti-Slavery Leaders of 
North Carolina," p. 60. 

* Revised Code, chap. 107, sec. 77. 

353] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 37 

(chap. 14) when it was provided that those who were 
willingly absent from the State for more than ninety days 
together should not be allowed to return to it. It was a 
capital offense without benefit of clergy for any person of 
color to rape a white female. 1 By law of 1830 (chap. 10, 
sec. 2) a free negro was forbidden to gamble with a slave, 
or to allow a slave to gamble in his house. A further 
restraint came in 1840 (chap. 30) when a free negro was 
forbidden to carry a gun or other deadly weapon without 
license from the County Court. 2 A free negro was not 
allowed to sell or to give spirituous liquor to any person what- 
ever, 3 and if a free negro were charged with the support of a 
bastard child, the Court might order him bound out for such 
a sum as would maintain the child. 4 Thus it will be seen 
that in regard to his rights of conduct the free negro was 
reduced more and more to the position of the slave. 

The legal status of the free negro was peculiar. Was he 
a freeman, or was he less than a freeman? The former 
he was by logical intent; yet he was undoubtedly denied, 
as has just been stated, many rights which mark the estate 
of freemen. At any time in the eighteenth century, I sup- 
pose, there would have been no question about the free 
negro being equally a freeman with the whites. After the 
severe laws of the third and fourth decades of the nineteenth 
century opinion changed. It was thus that it was as late 
as 1844 that the Supreme Court undertook to fix the status 
of free negroes. It then declared that "free persons of color 
in this State are not to be considered as citizens in the 
largest sense of the term, or if they are, they occupy such 
a position as justifies the Legislature in adopting a course 
of policy in its acts peculiar to them, so that they do not 
violate the great principles of justice which lie at the founda- 
tion of all law." 5 This position is further illustrated by the 
opinion of the Court in regard to the free negro's right to 

1 Laws of 1823, chap. 1229. 2 State vs. Lane, 8 Iredell, p. 256. 
3 Laws of 1844, chap. 86. * Revised Code, chap. 107, sec. 76. 

6 State vs. Newsom, 5 Iredell, p. 250. 

38 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [354 

defend himself against physical force. It was held in 1850 
that insolence from a free negro to a white man would 
excuse a battery in the same manner and to the same extent 
as insolence from a slave. 1 In 1859 the Court became more 
explicit. It declared that a free negro was in the peace of 
the State, and added at length : "So while the law will not 
allow a free negro to return blow for blow and engage in a 
fight with a white man under ordinary circumstances, as 
one white man may do with another or one free negro with 
another, he is not deprived absolutely of the right of self- 
defense, but a middle course is adopted" by which he must 
prove "that it became necessary for him to strike in order 
to protect himself from great bodily harm or grievous 
oppression." 2 

More important still is the history of free negroes and 
suffrage. 3 The first State Constitution provided that free- 
holders should vote for members of the State Senate and 
freemen for members of the House of Commons. By stat- 
ute a freeholder was one who owned in fee or for life fifty 
acres of land. When the Constitution began to operate it 
was a day of strenuous danger. Free negroes were enlisted 
in the patriot armies, and discharged the other burdens of 
government. They were admitted also to the privileges of 
citizenship. Negro freemen voted for members of the Com- 
mons and when they were freeholders they voted for mem- 
bers of the Senate. Having formed political alliances they 
found protectors in their party allies, and, eventually, foes in 
their party opponents. As they became more and more the 
object of suspicion there was a stronger demand for their 
disfranchisement. In some localities they ceased to vote at 
all. This was probably where the political party with which 
they affiliated was in the minority. In many com- 
munities they voted and were protected by their friends. 

1 State vs. Jowers, 11 Iredell, p. 535. 

2 State vs. Davis, 7 Jones, p. 52. 

3 See the author's paper on " Suffrage in North Carolina," Report 
of the American Historical Association, 1895, pp. 272-3. 

355] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 39 

Of course, where they did not vote it was through their own 
will — whether it was influenced by choice or by fear of the 
whites. Unquestionably, they were not a desirable class of 
voters. In Granville County, it is said, they lost the favor 
of the people because they persistently voted for one Potter, 
a demagogue of plausible speech, who had not the respect of 
the best whites. At length it came to be regarded as a blot 
on a man's political record to have the support of the free 
negroes. It was not unusual for candidates to twit one 
another with such support and for the one to reply that he 
would give up the negro vote if the other would do the 
same. 1 

In the triumph of the pro-slavery views, about 1830, the 
free negro was destined to lose the franchise. The matter 
came to a head in the Constitutional Convention of 1835. 
Already a law had been passed to forbid the free negro to 
hold office in the State. I do not know just how the act 
which called the Constitutional Convention came to include 
in the objects of the convention the consideration of the dis- 
franchisement of free negroes. Perhaps it was a compro- 
mise wrung from the men of the West by those of the East 
in order to get popular representation. Its consideration 
was made optional. There were many friends of the black 
man in the convention, but the majority was against him. 
Realizing their position they tried to secure a law which 
would save the franchise to the more industrious and intelli- 
gent of the free negroes. It was therefore proposed to 
limit the right to vote to such of this class as had a freehold 
estate worth $250. The debate on this proposition was 
long. It was argued by the affirmative that this would be 
an incentive to the thrift and good conduct of the free 
negroes ; that it would make the better men in that class 
friends of the whites in case of slave riot ; that many free 
negroes had fought in the Revolution; that they usually 

1 See David Dodge: "The Free Negroes of North Carolina," The 
Atlantic, Jan., 1886. David Dodge is O. W. Blacknall, Esq., Kit- 
trels, N. C. 

40 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [356 

voted for good men when they voted, and that if they were 
taxed they ought to vote. It was admitted that the bill of 
rights was intended to apply to white men only ; but, it was 
said, expediency demanded the present concession. It was 
not denied that the prejudice against these people was justi- 
fied by the unworthiness of many of them ; but the whites 
were largely responsible ; for, it was added, "the whites are 
the principal corrupters of the morals of these people." Mr. 
Shober, of Surry, an extremely western county, was more 
outspoken. He said that it was sufficient for him that a 
free negro was a human being, that he had a will and was 
a free agent. If held liable for taxes and other burdens he 
ought to have some privileges. Said Mr. Giles : "It was 
charged that the vote of the free negro could be purchased — 
purchased by whom? Undoubtedly by white men. The 
Legislature had been remiss in its duty to the free negroes. 
Instead of improving their situation they appear to have 
acted on a principle of hostility toward them." The con- 
vention ought to do something to raise them from their 
degradation. Judge Gaston also spoke for the negro. 
After Macon he was the most distingished man in the con- 
vention. The question, said he, was not the giving of a 
right but the taking of one away. He was willing to 
restrict the right of suffrage ; but those free negroes who 
possessed freeholds were honest men and perhaps Christians 
and they should not be politically excommunicated on 
account of their color. "Let them know that they are part 
of the body politic, and they will feel an attachment to the 
form of government, and have a fixed interest in the pros- 
perity of the community, and will exercise an important 
influence over the slaves." 

On the other hand, it was argued that a free negro was 
not a citizen, and that if he had ever voted it was illegally. 
Being called freemen in the abstract did not confer on them 
the dignity of citizenship. Fighting in the Revolution did 
not make them citizens any more than it made citizens of 
the slaves, many of whom fought in the Revolution. The 

357] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 41 

lot of the free negro was not a hard one. "It far surpassed 
the nondescript situation of the ancient Helots and villeins, 
or the ignoble condition of the oppressed peasants of 
Poland." A slave was not a citizen. When was a freed 
slave naturalized? And until naturalized could he be a 
citizen? Citizens of one State have privileges of citi- 
zens in the other States, and yet North Carolina severely 
restricted their coming to its borders, thus implying that 
they were not citizens. It was granted that the better class 
would suffer hardship in losing the right of suffrage, yet 
the interest of a few must yield to the general good. 
Although, it was said, free negroes voted elsewhere in the 
State, yet the privilege was not allowed to those in the east- 
ern counties, and they had accepted the restriction "with 
cheerfulness and contentment." The cold logic of the 
views of the majority was stated by Mr. Bryan, of Carteret, 
as follows : 

"This is, to my mind, a nation of white people, and the 
enjoyment of all civil and social rights by a distinctive class 
of individuals is purely permissive, and unless there be a 
perfect equality in every respect it cannot be demanded as a 
right. * * * It may be urged that this is a harsh and 
cruel doctrine, and unjust, and by no means reciprocal in 
its operation. I do not acknowledge any equality between 
the white man and the free negro in the enjoyment of politi- 
cal rights. The free negro is a citizen of necessity and 
must, as long as he abides among us, submit to the laws 
which necessity and the peculiarity of his position compel us 
to adopt." 

Mr. McQueen, of Chatham, continued the argument : The 
Government of North Carolina did not make the negro a 
slave, said he. It gave the boon of freedom, but- did that 
carry the further boon of citizenship? "Is there any solid 
ground for the belief that a free mulatto can have any per- 
manent interest with, and attachment to, this country? He 
finds the door of office closed against him by the bars and 
bolts of public sentiment; he finds the circle of every 

42 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [358 

respectable society closed against him ; let him conduct 
himself with as much propriety as he may, he finds himself 
suspended between two classes of society — the whites and 
the blacks — condemned by the one and despised by the 
other; and when his favorite candidate in the election pre- 
vails, it communicates no gratification in his breast, for the 
candidate will be a white man, and he knows full well that 
the white man eyes him with contempt." More relentless still 
was Mr. Wilson, of Perquimons. He said : "A white man 
may go to the house of a free black, maltreat and abuse him, 
and commit any outrage upon his family, for all of which the 
law cannot reach him, unless some white person saw the act 
committed — some fifty years of experience having satisfied 
the Legislature that the black man does not possess sufficient 
intelligence and integrity to be intrusted with the important 
privilege of giving evidence against a white man. And after 
all this shall we invest him with the more important rights of 
a freeman?" 

After the discussion had continued two days, the matter 
was carried against the free negro by a vote of 65 to 62. 
It was the strongly slaveholding East that carried the vote ; 
for, of the majority, 47 votes were eastern and 18 were west- 
ern, while of the minority 40 were western and 22 eastern. 
The amendment to the Constitution as finally adopted read : 
"No free negro, free mulatto, or free person of mixed blood, 
descended from negro ancestors to the fourth generation 
inclusive (though one ancestor of each generation may have 
been a white person) shall vote for members of the Senate 
or House of Commons." 

There were more free negroes in North Carolina in i860 
than in any other State except Virginia. Rigorous as they 
were the North Carolina laws against these people were 
more lenient than the laws of Virginia or of any other State. 
Consequently many free negroes quietly crossed into the 
former State and settled there undisturbed in the northern 
or southern counties. They took the poorest land. Usu- 
ally they rented a few acres ; often they bought a small 

359] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 43 

"patch," and on it dwelt in log huts of the rudest construc- 
tion. In either case they supplemented their resources by 
following some simple trade. They were well-diggers, 
shoemakers, blacksmiths, fiddlers, hucksters, pedlers, and 
so forth. Besides, they were easily called in to help the 
whites on occasions of need. There were a very few who 
accumulated money and some of these became slave-owners. 
Although it was against the law for them to come into the 
State, their arrival was tolerated both because the law was 
recognized as severe and because their services were wanted 
in the community. Many of them had Indian blood in 
their veins, and when such was the case they were a little 
distant towards the slaves. Unambitious, often immoral, 
they were of the least value to society, which, indeed, offered 
them no inducement to be better than they were. They 
usually were on terms of friendship with that other class 
of incompetents, the "poor whites." Sometimes these two 
classes lived on terms of sexual intimacy. In Granville 
County there was a pretty well authenticated story of a white 
woman who had her colored lover bled and drank some of 
the blood so that she might swear she had negro blood in 
her and thus be enabled to marry the object of her affection. 
She succeeded in her purpose and the couple lived to rear 
a family of children. 1 I have been speaking of free negroes 
who lived in the country districts. In towns they fared 
better and accumulated wealth. 

Regardless of the severe laws there were not a few free 
negroes who acquired wealth and consideration. Of th's 
class were notably Rev. John Chavis, Lunsford Lane and 
John C. Stanley. The first of these will be noticed in 
another chapter, the second has been treated by the author 
with much fulness elsewhere, 2 and here I shall speak of the 
third only. 

'David Dodge [O. W. Blacknall] in The At/atitic Monthly, Jan., 
"'Anti-slavery Leaders of North Carolina,'' p. 60. 

44 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [360 

John C. Stanley was a mulatto, the son of an African 
born slave woman, who was brought to Newbern, N. C. 
(from the West Indies), before the Revolutionary War. He 
was a barber by trade and throughout his days of manhood 
was known as "Barber Jack." He was a faithful servant, 
and in 1808 he was liberated by the General Assembly on 
petition of Mrs. Lydia Stewart, into whose possession he had 
come. He soon began to acquire negro slaves and land 
till at length he had sixty-four slaves and as many more 
bound free negroes working his several plantations. Says 
Col. John D. Whitford : "He was popular, too, with both 
slave and free negroes generally, notwithstanding he was a 
hard taskmaster. Yes, he worked all well and fed and 
clothed indifferently." 1 He married a moor, a copper col- 
ored woman who was not a slave. He got his start in the 
barber business — although he made much of his money by 
discounting notes. Certain white men of means who did 
not care to go openly into the business of sharp discounting, 
took him for a partner and furnished the means. He had 
three sons, John, Alexander and Charles. John became an 
expert bookkeeper and was employed in that capacity by 
a prominent firm. John C. Stanley amassed a fortune sup- 
posed to be worth more than $40,000 ; but in his old age he 
lost much of it by bad management. His family held them- 
selves aloof from the other negroes of the community. They 
were members of the Presbyterian Church, to which Mrs. 
Stewart, his former mistress, had belonged. This lady lived 
till 1822, and when old and feeble could be seen on the 
streets in fine weather supported on the arm of her faithful 
old servant — now fourteen years a freeman. Thus she took 
the air and thus she went to church on Sunday. When the 
couple had arrived at the church, John would conduct her to 

^ee Raleigh, N. C, Morning Post, Dec. 5, 1897. Other facts 
not mentioned by Col. Whitford are from statements made to the 
writer by Maj. D. W. Hurt, Goldsboro, N. C. 

361] Free Negroes and Emancipation. 45 

her pew and then leave her to take his seat with his own 
family in the place assigned to colored people. 

Many of the free negroes were in circumstances of inde- 
pendent thrift, and from many parts of the State I have had 
evidence that some negroes were slaveholders. In New- 
bern especially there were a number of such thrifty colored 
men. Notable among these was John Good. He was a son 
of his master and for a long time a slave. When the master 
died, his two surviving children, who were daughters, had 
but little property besides this boy, John, who was a barber. 
John took up the task of supporting them. He boarded them 
in good houses and otherwise provided for them well. His 
faithfulness won him many friends among the best citizens, 
and when both of his mistresses were married these friends 
united to persuade the owners to liberate him as a reward 
for his services. Unfortunately, freedom proved no boon. 
He fell into bad habits, took to drink and soon died. There 
were other thrifty and notable free negroes in the same 
place, as, for example, John Y. Green, a carpenter and con- 
tractor ; Richard Hazel, a blacksmith of means ; Albert and 
Freeman Morris, described as two "nice young men," and 
thoroughly respected, tailors by trade ; and Scipio, slave of 
Dr. Hughes, who was a blacksmith and owner of a livery 
stable. Another was Fellow Bragg, a tailor who was thor- 
oughly conscientious and so good a workman that promi- 
nent people were known to move their custom to the shops 
at which he was employed in order that he might work on 
it. Most of these men moved to Cincinnati sooner or later. 
What became of them after that I do not know. 1 The con- 
ditions here recorded for Newbern were not unusual for 
North Carolina towns in general. Everywhere there were 
usually a number of prosperous free negroes. Most of them 
were mulattoes, not a few of them were set free by their 
fathers and thus they fell easily into the life around them. 

x The facts in this paragraph are from Maj. D. W. Hurt, formerly 
of Newbern, but now of Goldsboro, N. C. 

46 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [362 

This mulatto class was partly due to the easy sexual rela- 
tions between the races. A white man who kept a negro 
mistress ordinarily lost no standing in society on account of 
it. The habit, though not common, was not unusual. Often 
the mistress was a slave, and thus there were frequent eman- 
cipations either by gift or by purchase of liberty, till the 
stricter spirit of the laws after 1831 checked it. 



I have already said that the central idea of slavery in 
North Carolina was a determination to perpetuate the insti- 
tution, whatever the price, and at the same time a disposi- 
tion to make it as gentle as possible for the slave, pro- 
vided that doing so did not tend to loosen his bonds. This 
same idea is found in the master's regulation of the religious 
life of the slave. Without question he was willing to make 
the slave a Christian. He was anxious to do it. He spent 
money with more or less bountifulness to do it. This was 
sometimes done by men who were not Christians them- 
selves, but who wanted their slaves to be Christians for the 
purposes of discipline ; but oftener it was done out of pure 
benevolence, and with a devout purpose to accomplish the 
spiritual welfare of the negro. Persons who have formed 
their opinions of Southern society from the popular works 
of certain novelists are apt to think of the slave-owner as 
a fine-bred gentleman of cavalier instincts and patriarchal 
feelings. Such an estimate is but half true. There was in 
the South — in North Carolina it was very strong — a large 
class of slave-owners who approached more nearly to the 
English farmer type than to the English gentleman type. 
They were usually self-made men, of fair intelligence, and 
of some education. They were generally thrifty and often 
wealthy. The majority of them were Christians, mostly 
of the Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian Churches. This 
class of men has received but little attention from those who 
have written of Southern society, and yet it was the back- 
bone of that society. There was little that was ideal about 
such men. They were humdrum, but they were honest, 


48 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [364 

pious and substantial, and they were numerous. Such peo- 
ple are to be compared, not only in wealth, but in general 
social development as well, with the upper farmer class in 
the North and West. I do not mean to say that they were 
all of the South. The planter class, in the ordinary use of 
the term, was there, and it was the governing class and the 
class that touched the outside world. It went to summer 
resorts, and to Congress, and to political conventions, and it 
got into novels, and sometimes into history, and it was usu- 
ally benignly patriarchal, but the farmer class as a class came 
closer into touch with the slave and in a hundred ways soft- 
ened the harshness of an institution which no one knew 
how to modify in law. 

It was, indeed, in a harsh spirit that the law came at last 
to regulate the religious relations of the slave. In the begin- 
ning, when the slaves w T ere just from barbarism and free- 
dom, it was thought best to forbid them to have churches 
of their own. But as they became more manageable, this 
restriction was omitted from the law 1 and the churches 
went on with their work among the slaves. A large num- 
ber of negroes were converted and taken into church mem- 
bership, some of the more intelligent negroes were taught 
to read and were licensed to preach. Some churches made 
a specialty of work among the slaves. Often negro preach- 
ers held services with their own race and sometimes estab- 
lished separate congregations, though the latter was not 
the rule. The advantage of this system was that it was 
developing the negro into self-dependence religiously, but 
doing it under the intimate oversight of the whites among 
whom he was interspersed. Never before or since was the 
relation between the negro and his white neighbors so aus- 
picious. The change came openly in 1830, when a law was 
passed by the General Assembly which destroyed the hopes 
of all those who were favorable to this movement. It was 
enacted that no free person or slave should teach a slave 

J See the author's "Slavery and Servitude," p. 50. 

365] Religious Life. 49 

to read or write, the use of figures excepted, or give to a 
slave any book or pamphlet. 1 This law was no doubt 
intended to meet the danger from the circulation of incen- 
diary literature, which was believed to be imminent; yet 
it is no less true that it bore directly on the slave's religious 
life. It cut him off from the reading of the Bible — a point 
much insisted on by the agitators of the North — and it fore- 
stalled that mental development which was necessary to 
him in comprehending the Christian life. The only argu- 
ment made for this law was that if a slave could read he 
would soon become acquainted with his rights. Caruthers 
thought it a shame that a Christian people would make such 
arguments. "How dare you," he exclaims, "by your 
impious enactments doom millions of your fellow-beings to 
such a gross and perpetual ignorance !" 2 A year later a 
severer blow fell. The Legislature then forbade any slave 
or free person of color to preach, exhort, or teach "in any 
prayer-meeting or other association for worship where 
slaves of different families are collected together" on penalty 
of receiving not more than thirty-nine lashes. 3 The result 
was to increase the responsibility of the churches of the 
whites. They were compelled to abandon the hope of see- 
ing the negro made his own evangel and to take on them- 
selves the task of handing down to the slaves religious 
instruction in such a way that it should be comprehended 
by their immature minds and should not be too strongly 
flavored with the bitterness of bondage. With the mandate 
of the Legislature the churches acquiesced. 

As to the preaching" of the dominant class to the slaves 
it always had one element of disadvantage. It seemed to 
the negro to be given with a view to upholding slavery. As 
an illustration of this I may introduce the testimony of 

1 Revised Statutes, pp. 209, 578, and Revised Code, p. 218. 

2 See the unpublished manuscript of E. W. Caruthers's book on 
"Slavery," p. 396. It is preserved in the library of Greensboro 
Female College, Greensboro, N. C. 

3 Revised Statutes, p. 580, and Revised Code, p. 576. 

50 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [366 

Lunsford Lane. This slave was the property of a prominent 
and highly esteemed citizen of Raleigh, N. C. He hired 
his own time and with his father manufactured smoking 
tobacco by a secret process. His business grew and at 
length he bought his own freedom. Later, he opened a 
wood yard, a grocery store and kept teams for hauling. 
He at last bought his own home, and had bargained to buy 
his wife and children for $2500, when the rigors of the law 
were applied and he was driven from the State. He was 
intelligent enough to get a clear view of slavery from the 
slave's standpoint. He was later a minister, and undoubt- 
edly had the confidence and esteem of some of the leading 
people of Raleigh, among whom was Governor Morehead. 
He is a competent witness for the negro. In speaking of 
the sermons from white preachers he said that the favorite 
texts were "Servants, be obedient to your masters," and 
"he that knoweth his master's will and doth it not shall 
be beaten with many stripes." He adds, "Similar passages 
with but few exceptions formed the basis of most of the 
public instruction. The first commandment was to obey 
our masters, and the second was like unto it ; to labor as 
faithfully when they or the overseers were not watching 
as when they were. I will not do them the injustice to say 
that connected with this instruction there was not mingled 
much that was excellent." All this was natural. To be a 
slave was the fundamental fact of the negro's life. To be 
a good slave was to obey and to labor. Not to obey and not 
to labor were, in the master's eye, the fundamental sins of a 
slave. Such a condition was inherent in slavery. On the 
other hand, many of the more independent negroes, those 
who in their hearts never accepted the institution of slavery, 
were repelled from the white man's religion, and thus the 
support of a very valuable portion of the race was lost. 
This condition of affairs was not to be entirely remedied 
by having negro preachers ; but it might have been amelior- 
ated by it, and if, in the long course of time, the church 
work among the slaves could have been done entirely by 

367] Religious Life. 51 

negro preachers acting under white supervision the salva- 
tion of the slave would have been very near its accomplish- 

As it was, it is no doubt true that many slaves were 
reached by religious influences. Through the teachings of 
the church many were enabled to bend in meekness under 
their bondage and be content with a hopeless lot. There 
are whites to whom Christianity is still chiefly a burden- 
bearing affair. Such quietism has a negative value. It 
saves men from discontent and society from chaos. But 
it has little positive and constructive value. The idea of 
social reform which is also associated with the standard of 
Christian duty was not for the slave. Those very few who, 
like Lunsford Lane, did work themselves heroically to free- 
dom were acting on principles not usually preached from 
the pulpit in the latter part of our period. 

How a slave looked at the religion that was brought to 
him may be seen from the following words of Lunsford 
Lane, who seems to have been a consistent Christian : 

I was permitted to attend church, and this I esteem a great bless- 
ing. It was there I received much instruction, which I trust was a 
great benefit to me. I trusted, too, that I had experienced the renew- 
ing influences of divine grace. I looked upon myself as a great sin- 
ner before God, and upon the doctrine of the great atonement, 
through the suffering and death of the Saviour, as a source of continual 
joy to my heart. After obtaining from my mistress a written permit, 
a thing always required in such cases, I had been baptized and 
received into fellowship with the Baptist denomination. Thus in 
religious matters I had been indulged in the exercise of my own 
conscience; this was a favor not always granted to slaves. There, 
was one hard doctrine to which we as slaves were compelled to listen, 
which I found difficult to receive. We were often told by the minis- 
ter how much we owed to God for bringing us over from the benighted 
shores of Africa and permitting us to listen to the sound of the gos- 
pel. In ignorance of any special revelation that God had made to 
master, or to his ancestors, that my ancestors should be stolen and 
enslaved on the soil of America to accomplish their salvation, I was 
slow to believe all my teachers enjoined on this subject. How sur- 
prising, then, this high moral end being accomplished, that no proc- 
lamation of emancipation had before this been made ! Many of us 

52 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [368 

were as highly civilized as some of our masters, and, as to piety, in many 
instances their superiors. I was rather disposed to believe that God had 
originally granted me temporal freedom, which wicked men had 
forcibly taken from me — which now I had been compelled to pur- 
chase at great cost. * * * There was one very kind-hearted cler- 
gyman whom I used often to hear; he was very popular with the col- 
ored people. But after he had preached a sermon to us in which he 
urged from the Bible that it was the will of Heaven from all eternity 
that we should be slaves, and our masters be our owners, many of 
us left him, considering, like the doubting disciple of old, "This is a 
hard saying, who can hear it P" 1 

Dr. Caruthers, whose long pastorate in Guilford ought 
to have given him good grounds for speaking, said that 
slaves knew little of the Bible, except as they picked it up 
from others, "and that little," he adds, "they don't know half 
their time whether to believe or disbelieve. It is often said 
that many of them become very pious people, and although 
we can't know the heart, charity would lead us to believe or 
hope so ; but no thanks to slavery or the slave laws." It was 
the Lord's work. The negroes who were spoken of as pious, 
said he, did not have "those enlarged views or that expan- 
sion of soul which is always imparted by scriptural and 
enlightened sentiments of immortality." 2 

All the churches of North Carolina, so far as I have been 
able to ascertain, received freely negro members. Every 
church had its space reserved for negroes. It was almost 
invariably in the gallery, if there was one, or in the back of 
the church, if there was no gallery. In the ceremony of the 
Lord's Supper, after the whites had partaken, the sacra- 
ment was administered to the negro members. In many 
churches, particularly of Methodist and Baptist denomina- 
tions, which had often many colored communicants, there 
was a special service in the afternoon by the white preacher 
for the negroes. It was to these two churches that most of 
the negroes joined themselves, although there were some in 
each of the other leading bodies. There was much reason 

x See Hawkins' "Memoir of Lunsford Lane," 64-66. 
2 See manuscript book on "Slavery," p. 294. 

369] Religious Life. 53 

for this. These two churches in North Carolina were 
organized for the masses. Their doctrines were easily com- 
prehended and emotional ; and the negro is a creature of 
emotions. Moreover these bodies made special efforts to 
reach the negroes. They went among the large slave plan- 
tations as missionaries. Other denominations paid more 
attention to household slaves. In not a few cases Meth- 
odism began with negro congregations and in at least one 
place it was introduced by a negro preacher. But true as it 
was that the Methodists and Baptists attracted the negroes 
more strongly, it was perhaps equally true that the Quakers, 
in proportion to their own numbers, were more closely 
intimate with the negroes than any other religious body 
in the State. Of this more will be said later on. Let us 
now consider the Methodists and the slave. 

In the eighteenth century the record of the Methodists 
was clearly against slavery. John Wesley himself said that 
the slave trade was the sum of all villainies, although White- 
field was not opposed to it. The anti-slavery sentiment 
was strongest in the Northern Conferences, although it was 
not unknown in the Southern. As early as 1780 the Con- 
ference of all the Church declared: "Slavery is contrary to 
the laws of God, man and nature and hurtful to society, con- 
trary to the dictates of conscience and pure religion, and 
doing that which we would not that others should do to us 
and ours." 1 In 1784 the Conference resolved to expel from 
membership those who bought and sold slaves. 2 This step 
was calculated to arouse much opposition in the South 
among the laymen, even if the "preachers had favored it. 
It occasioned much criticism and aroused much feeling in 
both Virginia and the two Carohnas. In the spring of 1875, 
Dr. Coke arrived in America. He preached strongly 
against slavery and got the Virginia Conference to petition 
the Legislature for gradual emancipation. This made him 
very unpopular, so much so that he barely escaped bodily 
violence. The slaveholders now withdrew their slaves from 

Conference Minutes, p. 25. 2 7bid., pp. 47-48. 

54 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [370 

contact with Methodist preachers. 1 The Conference of 
1785 thought it prudent to rescind its former action, but 
was particular to add : "N. B. — We do hold in the deepest 
abhorrence the practice of slavery, and shall not cease to 
seek its destruction by all wise and prudent means." 2 So 
far as an open declaration for emancipation is concerned, 
the Conference was quiet for some time; but in 1795 it 
showed its concern in the negro's welfare by setting apart a 
fast day "to lament the deep-rooted vassalage that still 
reigneth in many parts of this free and independent United 
States," and it added: "We feel gratified that many thous- 
ands of these poor people are free and pious." 3 

As the Church became strong enough to organize Con- 
ferences, in the various sections the question of the existence 
of slavery was referred to these bodies and thus localized to 
an extent. But one particular question that concerned all 
was the propriety of allowing a preacher to hold slaves. As 
early as 1783 the Conference forbade a preacher to own 
slaves in a State where it was legal to free them. 4 Much dis- 
cussion grew up over this matter early in the present century. 
Finally it was settled on the lines earlier adopted. It was 
agreed in 1816 that no slaveholder should hold office m 
States which allowed emancipation and subsequent resi- 
dence of the liberated negro. Here was a distinct compro- 
mise fixed on the principle of sectional conditions, the prin- 
ciple which four years later the Missouri compromise 
followed in the broader sphere of politics. 5 The Church 
continued the former strong declaration against slavery in 
the abstract, a declaration which, it was likely, was supported 
by Southern preachers. It was on the compromise of 18 16 
that the fight which led to separation in 1844 was made. 

1 Drew: "Life of Dr. Coke," pp. 132-139. 
2 Conference Minutes, p. 55. 
3 Ibid., pp. 163-164. 

k Ibid., p. 41, and the Discipline of 1821, p. 69. 

5 See the Discipline of 1817 and Redpath's "Organization of the 
Methodist Episcopal Church South," p. 10. 

371] Religious Life. 55 

The occasion was the censure voted against Bishop 
Andrew because he had married in Georgia a woman who 
owned slaves. The Southern organization which was now 
formed continued its protest against slavery. The first 
edition of its Discipline, 1846, said in the words of the 
older Discipline : "We declare that we are as much as ever 
convinced of the great evil of slavery. Therefore, no slave- 
holder shall be eligible to any official position in our Church 
hereafter where the Laws of the State in which he lives will 
admit of emancipation and permit the liberated slave to 
enjoy freedom. When any traveling preacher becomes an 
owner of a slave or slaves, by any means, he shall forfeit 
his ministerial character in our Church, unless he execute, 
if it be practicable, a legal emancipation of such slaves, con- 
formable to the laws of the State in which he lives." Fur- 
thermore, preachers were to enforce prudently on their mem- 
bers the duty of teaching slaves to read the Bible and to 
attend church services. Colored preachers and officials 
were guaranteed the privileges of their official relation 
"where the usages of the country do not forbid it." Of all 
of these ameliorating conditions to the slave but one was 
applicable in North Carolina ; for here he could not be 
legally emancipated and remain in the State, nor could he 
be allowed to preach or be taught to read the Bible. It 
only remained for him to aspire to be some church official 
lower than a preacher. The original strong desire to chris- 
tianize the negro, which the Methodists never forsook, was 
clearly bound and held in restraint in conformity to the 
newer spirit of harshness that, as has already been said, 
seized the State Legislature about 1830. 

The labors of the Methodists among the slaves began in 
the very first days of Methodism in the State. The General 
Conference in 1787 1 urged the preachers to labor among the 
slaves, to receive into full membership those that seemed 

1 See Minutes of Conference, p. 67. The Methodist Church in 
America dates from 1784. 

56 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [372 

worthy, and "to exercise the whole Methodist Discipline 
among- them." How well these efforts prospered may be 
seen from the following figures : In 1787 there were in 
North Carolina 1 5017 white and 492 colored members; in 

1788 there were 5263 white and 775 black members; in 

1789 there were 6644 whites and 1139 blacks; in 1790 there 
were 7518 whites to 1749 blacks; in 1795 there were 8414 
whites to 1719 blacks; in 1800 there 6363 whites to 2108 
blacks; in 1805 there were 9385 whites to 2394 blacks; in 
1810 there were 13,535 whites to 4724 blacks; in 1815 there 
were 14,283 whites to 5165 blacks; in 1820 there were 13,179 
whites to 5933 blacks; in 1825 there were 15,421 whites to 
7292 blacks; in 1830 there were 19,228 whites to 10,182 
blacks ; in 1835 there were 27,539 whites to 8766 blacks, 
and in 1839, which is the last year for which I have been 
able to obtain the figures, there were 26,405 whites to 9302 
blacks. Here was a rapid proportional gain of the blacks 
over the whites. In 1787 there were not 10 per cent, as 
many black as white members; in 1839 there were 35 per 
cent, as many. The membership for each race varied nota- 
bly, but the variations were wider with the negro race. 
This indicates, it must be supposed, the more emotional 
nature of the negro. A wave of revival feeling which would 
sweep over the country would swell the roll of membership 
and a few years of coolness would contract it. 

Although there were negro Methodists in most sections 
of the State, they were most numerous in the eastern coun- 
ties. In this section the Methodists often began their work 
with an appeal to the slaves — "negro churches," their meet- 
ing houses were often called by the more aristocratic 
denominations. An illustration is Wilmington. Here 
William Meredith, a Methodist preacher, arrived at the 
beginning of this century. He began to work among the 

a The estimates are based on reports in the Minutes. It is doubtful 
whether some charges near the State boundaries were in North Caro- 
lina or out of it. Therefore, the figures may not be absolutely cor- 
rect, but for purposes of comparison they are adequate. 

373] Religions Life. 57 

slaves. He bought a lot, and through the penny collection 
from the blacks and the scanty contributions of the few 
poorer whites who had joined with him, a building was 
completed. This was the beginning of Methodists in the 
town. Hither came Bishop Francis Asbury in 1807 and 
preached twice in one day. On the same day, John Charles, 
a colored preacher, preached at sunrise. The feeling of 
friendship for him seems to have been great and the good 
Bishop writes in his journal that it was "a high day on 
Mount Zion." The attitude of the community was not 
always tolerant of this "negro church." There were vari- 
ous disturbances, and once the building was wrecked by 
a mob. 1 

More striking, but not so typical, is the story of the plant- 
ing of Methodism in Fayetteville. Late in the eighteenth 
century, Fayetteville had but one church organization, the 
Presbyterian, and that had no building. One day there 
arrived in town Henry Evans, a full-blooded free negro from 
Virginia, who was moving to Charleston, S. C, where he 
proposed to follow the trade of shoemaking. He was perhaps 
free born ; he was a Methodist and a licensed local preacher. 
In Fayetteville he observed that the colored people "were 
wholly given to profanity and lewdness, never hearing 
preaching of any denomination." He felt it his duty to stop 
and work among them. He worked at his trade during the 
week and preached on Sunday. The whites became alarmed 
and the Town Council ordered him to stop preaching. He 
then met his flock in the "sand hills," desolate places out- 
side of the jurisdiction of the Town Council. Fearing vio- 
lence he made his meetings secret and changed the place of 
meeting from Sunday to Sunday. He was particular to 
violate no law, and to all the whites he showed the respect 
which their sense of caste superiority demanded. Public 

1 See " Early Methodism in Wilmington," by Dr. A. M. Chreitz- 
berg, in the Annual Publication of the Historical Society of the N. C. 
Conference, 1897, p. 1; also Wightman: "Life of Bishop Capers," 
P- 136. 

58 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [374 

opinion began to change, especially when it was noticed that 
slaves who had come under his influence were more docile 
for it. Some prominent whites, most of whom were women, 
became interested in his cause. They attended his meet- 
ings and through their influence public opinion was 
reversed. Then a rude frame building was erected within 
the town limits and a number of seats were reserved for the 
whites, some of whom became regular attendants at his 
services. The preacher's reputation spread. The white 
portion of the congregation increased till the negroes were 
crowded out of their seats. Then the boards were knocked 
from the sides of the house and sheds were built on either 
hand and in these the blacks were seated. By this time the 
congregation, which had been unconnectional at first, had 
been taken into the regular Methodist connection and a reg- 
ular white preacher had been sent to it. But the heroic 
founder was not displaced. A room was built for him in 
the rear of the pulpit and there he lived till his death in 

Of Henry Evans, Bishop Capers said : "I have known 
not many preachers who appeared more conversant with 
the Scriptures than Evans, or whose conversation was more 
instructive as to the things of God. He seemed always deeply 
impressed with the responsibility of his position * * " 
nor would he allow any partiality of friends to induce him 
to vary in the least degree from the lines of conduct or the 
bearing which he had prescribed to himself in this respect ; 
never speaking to a white man but with his hat under his 
arm, never allowing himself to be seated in their houses and 
even confining himself to the kind and manner of dress 
proper for slaves in general, except his plain black coat in 
the pulpit. 'The whites are kind and come to hear me 
preach,' he would say, 'but I belong to my own sort and 
must not spoil them.' " Rare self-control before the most 
wretched of castes ! Henry Evans did much good, but he 
would have done more good had his spirit been untram- 
meled by this sense of inferiority. 

375] Religions Life. 59 

His last speech to his people is noteworthy. Directly 
after the morning sermon for the whites it was customary 
to have a sermon for the blacks. On the Sunday before 
Evans' death, as the latter meeting was being held the door 
of his little shed room opened and he tottered forward. 
Leaning on the altar rail he said : "I have come to say my 
last word to you. It is this : None but Christ. Three 
times I have had my life in jeopardy for preaching the 
gospel to you. Three times I have broken the ice on the 
edge of the water and swam across the Cape Fear to preach 
the gospel to you, and if in my last hour I could trust to 
that, or anything but Christ crucified, for my salvation, all 
should be lost and my soul perish forever." Of these words 
Bishop Capers justly says that they were worthy of St. 
Paul. 1 

The opposition that was encountered in Fayetteville and 
in Wilmington had been due to the more active abolition 
turn of the Church in the North. In 1785 Dr. Coke arrived 
in America on a visit to the Church. He preached aboli- 
tion and gave it an impetus among the Methodists which 
resulted in memorials and remonstrances to the Legisla- 
ture. Before this the large slave-owners had encouraged 
preaching to their slaves. 2 They now became fearful that 
the slaves would be incited to violence, and generally in the 
South, Methodist ministers were forbidden access to the 
slaves. It took some time to live down this unfavorable 
impression and it was only when it was seen that the South- 
ern preachers did not approve of the interference with the 
agitation against negro slavery that public sentiment came 
around. There was the most urgent need for such preach- 
ing. Of the negroes around Wilmington, Bishop Capers 
says : "A numerous population of this class in that town 
and vicinity were as destitute of any public instruction (or, 
probably, instruction of any kind as to spiritual things) as 
if they had not been believed to be men at all, and their 

1 Wightman: " Life of Bishop Capers," pp. 124-129. 
2 Drew: "Life of Dr. Coke," pp. 132-139. 

60 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [376 

morals were as depraved as, with such a destitution of the 
gospel among them, might have been expected." To this 
state of things the masters were indifferent; for, adds the 
Bishop, "it seems not to have been considered that such a 
state of things might furnish motives sufficient to induce 
pure-minded men to engage, at great inconvenience or even 
personal hazard, in the work of reforming them. Such 
work, on the other hand, seems to have been regarded as 
Unnecessary, if not unreasonable. Conscience was not 
believed to be concerned in it. "* And yet when conveyed 
the negroes made good Christians. Says the same author- 
ity : "I believe I have never served a more Christian-hearted 
people." The preacher had a great influence over them. 
Church trials were rare among them and the numbers 
increased constantly. They were faithful in giving to the 
church. The pastor's salary at Wilmington was derived 
almost wholly from their scant resources ; for the few white 
members were very poor. They were attached to their 
preacher, as many a pound cake or warm pair of knit socks 
or gloves from their hands testified. 

Sometimes a congregation outgrew in dignity the hum- 
bler persons who had at first constituted its chief elements. 
Such was the case at Raleigh. Here there were at first a 
large number of colored members, and when the church 
building was erected they contributed their part. They were 
given seats in the gallery. At length there was an oppor- 
tunity to buy a church which might be turned over solely 
to the negroes. Both whites and blacks worked with their 
might to get the necessary money. When it was at length 
secured, there was a two-fold rejoicing; by the negroes 
because they had a building of their own, by the whites 
because the negroes were out of the white man's church. 
This negro church now became a mission and a white 
preacher was assigned to it by the Conference. Usually 
an old preacher of kind disposition and good judgment was 
sent to them. They were still under the oversight of the white 

1 Wightman: "Life of Bishop Capers," p. 163. 

377] Religious Life. 61 

congregation from which they drew for Sunday school 
teachers and other church workers. 

The Baptists were early in North Carolina, but until the 
establishment of the Missionary Baptist Church in 1830 
they were hardly as zealous for converting the unsaved as 
later. I have not found evidence that they began by work- 
ing up congregations among the slaves as did the Meth- 
odists in some places, but from the first they took great 
care to bring under religious influence the slaves of their 
own members and through these the negroes generally 
came to be reached at length. The records of Sandy Run 
Church, in Bertie County, as early as 1773, show that there 
were negro preachers for the negro members, and that these 
were instructed not to hold services at the time of the regular 
meeting of the whole church, at which it was designed that 
the slaves might also be present. Both colored preachers 
and colored members were under the control of the white 
congregation. They had no voice in general church affairs, 
but would be heard in church meeting in cases which 
related to their own race. There were in some eastern sec- 
tions colored deacons who were given charge of the colored 
members and who made report from time to time to the 
church meeting. 1 

It has been found impossible to get an estimate of the 
number of negroes in the Baptist Church in North Carolina. 
Here the congregational idea was strong, the reports to the 
associations were not very full and do not always show the 
number of members. In 1830 the Baptist State Conven- 
tion was formed, and from that time the minutes are pub- 
lished for the Missionary Baptist Church in North Carolina, 
but in the few years for which the number of members are 
reported, there is no distinction made between blacks and 
whites. It is only in the Chowan Association that I have 
had a glimpse of numbers. Here there were in 1843, 4575 
white to 1228 black members; in 1844, 3241 whites to 

x For many of the facts here presented I am indebted to Dr. J. D. 
Huffham, of Henderson, N. C. 

62 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [378 

1160 blacks; in 1848, 4619 whites to 1541 blacks; in 1850, 
4668 whites to 1476 blacks ; in 1855, 6960 whites to 2545 
blacks, and in i860, 7539 whites to 3043 blacks. This pro- 
portion was strong, but it must be remembered that the 
Chowan Association lay in the East, and that it was in a 
region which was strong in Baptist faith. It was not repre- 
sentative of the denomination on this question. 

The care of the Church over the life of the slave was com- 
mendably faithful, especially over the relation of master and 
slave. As early as 1778 it was decided that a marriage 
between slaves ought to be respected, even though it was 
against the law of the land, and that any member who broke 
the marriage vows of servants ought to be denied fellow- 
ship. 1 In 1783 it was declared by a meeting in the Sandy 
Creek Association that a master should give his servants 
liberty to attend family prayers in his house, that he should 
exhort them to attend, but not use force. 2 How this duty 
was fulfilled may be seen from the memoir of Capt. John 
Freeman, a prominent Baptist of Chowan County, who 
died in 1794. It is said of him that although he had many 
slaves "his lenity towards them was very remarkable. If 
any of them transgressed, his general method to chastise 
them was to expose their faults before the rest of the ser- 
vants and the whole family when they were at family wor- 
ship in the morning, who, when assembled at morning 
prayer, would talk to< them, exhort and rebuke them so 
sharply for their faults that he made others fear. * * * 
He was so very affected for the spiritual welfare of his fam- 
ily that often he seemed almost convulsed, and this extraor- 
dinary zeal was not the impulse of a moment, but his con- 
stant practice for seventeen years." 3 

The above statements apply to the Baptist body before 
the separation of the Missionary Baptists from it. For a 
view of the attitude of the latter toward slavery, the best 

1 Biggs: " History of Kehuckee Association," p. 47. 
2 Purefoy: "History of Sandy Creek Association," p. 60. 
s Biggs: "History of the Kehuckee Association," pp. 95-96. 

379] Religious Life. 63 

source at hand is Purefoy's "History of the Sandy Creek 
Association." Here it is seen that the question of a valid 
marriage between blacks was still unsettled. The Associa- 
tion was asked in 1805 to settle it. 1 After three years' post- 
ponement it was answered that such a marriage should he 
valid, ''when they come together in their former and general 
custom, having no [other] companion." Rev. Purefoy, 
commenting on this, says 2 owners should endeavor to keep 
married slaves from being separated, even if they put them- 
selves to some inconvenience in buying, selling, or exchang- 
ing them. 

To the buying and selling of slaves for profit Baptists in 
both East and West were opposed. In 181 8 the Chowan 
Association was asked if a Christian could consistently 
buy slaves in order to sell them to speculators. The answer 
was clear : "We believe that such practice is at war with the 
spirit of the gospel and shocking to all the tender feelings 
of our nature. We answer No." 3 In 1835 Sandy Creek 
Association spoke still more emphatically. It said : 
"Whereas, We believe it inconsistent with the spirit of the 
gospel of Christ for a Christian to buy or sell negroes for the 
purpose of speculation or merchandise for gain. Resolved, 
therefore, that this association advise the churches of which 
it is composed to exclude members who will not abandon 
the practice after the first and second admonition." 4 When 
in 1847 tne Association was asked if it was agreeable to the 
gospe 1 for Baptists to buy and sell human beings or to keep 
them in bondage for life, the only answer vouchsafed was 
to refer the interrogators to the minutes of 1835. The 
slavery dispute was then well-nigh in its stage of highest 
passion, and it is not unlikely that the Church authorities 
did not like to take a more definite position on either the 
first or second part of the query. 

'Purefoy: "History of Sandy Creek Association," p. 76. 
*3id., pp. 93-94- 

3 "Minutes of the Chowan Baptist Association," 1818, p. 7. 
4 Purefoy: " Sandy Creek Association," pp. 163-164. 

64 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [380 

The Baptists, like the Methodists, early in the century had 
negro preachers, most notable of whom was Ralph Free- 
man. Ralph was a slave in Anson County in the neighbor- 
hood of Rock River Church. Soon after his conversion he 
felt an impulse to preach, and early in this century he was 
licensed by his church for that purpose. Soon afterwards 
he was ordained to the regular ministry. He did not have 
specific charges, but traveled and preached through his own 
and the adjoining counties. Says Rev. Purefoy : "He 
became a good reader and was well versed in the Scripture. 
He was considered an able preacher and was frequently 
called upon to preach on funeral occasions, and was 
appointed to preach on Sabbath at Association, and fre- 
quently administered the ordinance of baptism and the 
Lord's Supper. He was of common size, was perfectly 
black, with a smiling countenance, especially in the pulpit 
while speaking. He was very humble in his appearance at 
all times, and especially when conducting religious services. 
Great personal respect was also shown him by the brethren 
whom he visited in his preaching excursions." Rev. Joseph 
Magee, a white Baptist minister, became much attached to 
Ralph. They used to travel and preach together and after 
the fashion of the times it was agreed between them that the 
survivor should preach the funeral sermon of the one who 
died first. This task fell to Ralph. Although his friend 
had moved to the West, the colored preacher was sent for all 
the way from North Carolina to come and fulfil the promise 
made years earlier. Ralph complied with great success and 
before a large audience. When the Baptists divided on the 
question of missions, Ralph sided with the anti-mission 
party, and so fell into disfavor with the others. This he 
regretted, but a greater blow, which also fell about the same 
time, was the statute which forbade negroes to preach. He 
was greatly mortified, but submitted, and with that passes 
from our notice. 

In proportion to their strength the Quakers did more for 
the negroes than any other religious body in North Caro- 


381] Religious Life. 65 

lina. They did not have very many colored members, but 
before the Revolution they set themselves to free those they 
did have ; and they did not stop until the process was 
accomplished. The Yearly Meeting of the very first year 
of the war, 1776, appointed a committee to go about and aid 
Friends to free their slaves. This committee was expected 
to act in co-operation with the various monthly meetings. 
Thus a considerable number were liberated in the following 
year. The committee reported that they found among the 
Friends a great willingness to forward the work. But they 
had acted contrary to the law of emancipation which 
required that slaves should be freed for meritorious conduct 
only. Forty of those thus emancipated were taken up and 
sold into slavery again. The Quakers complained that this 
was done under a law passed in 1777, after the slaves were 
liberated. At considerable expense they fought the matter 
through County and Superior Courts and won the verdict ; 
but the Assembly was then appealed to and in 1779 it passed 
a law confirming the sales of these negroes and directing 
that all other negroes similarly freed should be sold into 
slavery in the same manner as if they had been freed after 
the passage of the law of 1777. The reason for this extra- 
ordinary procedure was no doubt the law of 1741, which 
was held to be still in force. The Friends, however, were 
not satined. They appealed to the Assembly. They based 
their theory on the principle "that no law, moral or divine, 
has given us a right to, or property in, any of our fellovv 
creatures any longer than they are in a state of minority." 
They appealed to the statement of the rights of man in the 
Declaration of Independence, and showed that the sale of 
the negroes in question was in opposition to the spirit of the 
North Carolina Bill of Rights, which forbade the passage 
of ex post facto laws. This petition was signed by the 
eleven men who had owned the slaves in question and was 
sent to the Assembly, but on the advice of persons friendly 

66 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [382 

to the Quakers it was not presented. 1 This did not deter 
the Friends from further petitions. One was sent in 1787, 
another in 1788, and another in 1789. The petitions were 
about various matters, but none of them amounted to any- 
thing. In 1792 they petitioned again, asking the repeal of 
the law restricting emancipation, and demanding that it 
"never again disgrace the annals of a Christian people." The 
petition failed, but they did not cease to send others in the 
years following. In 1817 they asked the Legislature to 
take joint action with Congress for the colonization of the 
free negroes. The petition failed, and the next year they 
voted $1000 to the American Colonization Society. For 
some time there seems to have been no further connection 
with this society. 

The instruction of the slaves in religious and educational 
matters aroused the energies of the Quakers. They became 
awakened in this matter in 1780, when it seems that but little 
had been done. In 1787 it was asserted that one of the two 
leading objects of their activities toward the negro was to 
care for, protect, and instruct the freed negroes. The 
immediate result of this interest does not appear; but in 
181 5 Friends were exhorted by the Yearly Meeting to pre- 
pare schools for the literary and religious instruction of 
the negroes, 2 and in 1816 a school for negroes was opened 
for two days in each week. Some progress was made, as 
may be seen by the reports. Most of the negroes in the West- 
ern Quarter who were minors had been put in a way to get ' J a 
portion of school learning." The Quarter recommended that 
males be taught to "read, write and cipher as far as the Rule 
of Three," and that females be taught to read and write 
merely. 3 In 1821, Levi Coffin and his cousin, Vestal, opened 

'A chief source of facts relating to the Quakers and Slavery has 
been "A Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the North Carolina 
Yearly Meeting on the subject of Slavery within its Limits." (See 
"Slavery and Servitude," p. 50, note 1.) 

2 Quaker pamphlet cited above, p. 24. 

z Ibid., p. 24. See also Weeks: "Southern Quakers and Slavery," 
p. 231. 

383] Religious Life. 67 

a Sunday school for the blacks at New Garden and began to 
teach some slaves to spell ; but when they could spell words 
of two or three letters they were withdrawn by their masters. 
The former attempt must have been as unsatisfactory as that 
of the Coffins, since the standing committee of the Quakers 
reported in 1821 that they could find no way to' educate col- 
ored children except in the families of Friends. Either in 
this way or otherwise some progress was undoubtedly 
made, as appears from the reports sent in to the Yearly 
Meeting. When the Assembly passed the law forbidding 
slaves to be taught to read and write the Quakers petitioned 
for its repeal, and they also asked for the repeal of the law 
forbidding colored persons to preach. They said : "We 
consider these laws unrighteous and contrary to the spirit 
of Christianity, offensive to God ; and your memorialists 
believe, if not repealed, they will increase the difficulties and 
dangers they are intended to prevent." 1 Furthermore, they 
asked for the enactment of a law to instruct slaves in reli- 
gion and in reading, so that they could read the Bible. 

To accomplish the liberation of slaves in the face of the 
laws they had recourse to corporate ownership. In 1808 
a committee was appointed on the state of the people of 
color, and its recommendation, which was adopted, was 
that certain trustees should be appointed to whom should be 
conveyed the slaves whom it was desired to emancipate. 
These slaves were to be held in nominal bondage, but the 
trustees were to retain only so much power over them as 
should be for the good of the slaves' conduct. Thus an 
idle negro might be coerced moderately. The Friends took 
this step on the advice of Judge William Gaston, who was 
always a friend of freedom and of the slave. At first some 
Friends opposed the project, but they gradually changed 
their views and the custom continued in force until the Civil 
War. As soon as this plan was in operation, slaves began 
to disappear from among the Quakers. Many of them 

x See Quaker pamphlet cited, p. 34. 

68 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [384 

were sent out of the State — either to free territory in the 
United States or to Africa or to the West Indies. A few 
could be freed by the consent of the County Courts. A 
considerable number, especially those who were connected 
by family bonds with the slaves of persons not Quakers, as 
well as old persons who were not fit to begin a new life in 
a new place, were retained in the hands of the trustees. 
The general result of this relation, however, was to move 
the negroes out of the State ; and this was no doubt due 
partly to the legal aspects of the case as seen in the decision 
in the Contentnea Society vs. Dickinson, to which reference 
has already been made. 1 This decision might well convince 
the Quakers that they could not hope to make society own- 
ership a permanent feature and they used more and more 
the practice of sending the slaves away. Another induce- 
ment to send the slaves away, and an earlier one, was the 
liability of having them become a charge on the society. 
It is with evident feelings of relief that the agents of the 
Eastern Quarter in 1820 reported that the four hundred 
slaves who were owned by the Yearly Meeting had been 
managed so as to avoid expense, except for sending some 
away. In 1822 the number in hand was four hundred and 
fifty and the Yearly Meeting ordered that the trustees 
should receive no slaves except from Quakers. It was for 
this reason that a committee was appointed to examine the 
laws of the free States to see if negroes might be sent 
thither. In 1823 this committee made its report in favor of 
Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and steps were taken to remove 
the slaves as rapidly as possible, and $200 was voted to 
defray the expenses. They were sent to Pennsylvania, to 
the Northwest, to Hayti, and, perhaps, to Liberia. Six hun- 
dred and fifty-two had gone by 1830 and four hundred and 
two were still under care. The expense of moving so many 
had reached $12,769.50, not all of which had been borne 
by the North Carolina Friends, for in 1829 the Rhode 

1 See Quaker pamphlet cited, p. 32. Although this decision was 
not given till 1827, the case was begun earlier than 1822. 

385] Religious Life. 69 

Island Yearly Meeting had contributed to the work 
$1351.50. Sometimes the negroes themselves paid part of 
the expense of removal by being hired out for wages, the 
surplus earnings being saved for this purpose. But the 
Friends were not ungenerous in this matter. On one 
occasion four women had promised to go and leave their 
husbands in slavery. At the last moment they refused to 
go, and the Friends bought the husbands at an expense of 
$1400 and sent them along with the faithful wives. The 
owners of the husbands were here equally benevolent, for 
they sold them at half their value. The last important 
removal was in 1836, when fifty-seven persons were sent 
to the Northwest and two hundred were left in the possession 
of the society. Many of these were old people and children. 
Death rapidly thinned the one class, and the members of 
the other were sent away as they became grown. In 1848 
the number was about twelve, and it was said by the Com- 
mittee on Sufferings : "It is believed that there is no instance 
of any [slaves] being held among us so as to deprive them 
of the benefit of their labor." 1 In 1856 there were eighteen 
still under care. 

The work of the Quakers was not easy. "Such," says the 
narrative of the Committee on Sufferings, from which I have 
already taken so much, "it would appear was the prejudice 
against freeing the slaves, the danger of their being carried 
off and sold in distant parts, the ignominy of their situation ; 
that there was no way but to remove them to the free gov- 
ernments as fast as their circumstances would permit." 
Many Quakers and other persons moved from North Caro- 
lina to the Northwest, and the Friends often sent slaves 
whom they desired to free along with these emigrants. 
Sometimes a large number would be sent, and trusted 
Quakers would go along with them with authority to 
effect emancipation. Sometimes a ship would be chartered, 
as when the negroes wanted to go to the West Indies. 

1 Quaker pamphlet cited, p. 40. 

70 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [386 

To the Quakers must be given, also, much of the credit 
for the organization of the North Carolina Manumission 
Society. This society existed in the region around Greens- 
boro, where the non-slaveholding element was strong. It 
had members who were not Quakers, but it had many, per- 
haps a majority, who were of that faith. This society had 
many branches and its inception was doubtless due to the 
efforts of Charles Osborn, a Quaker minister, who organ- 
ized various branches in Guilford County in 1816. In the 
same year these branches were organized into a general 
society, and in the following year this society agreed to 
act in connection with the American Colonization Society. 
To this move there was, however, much opposition, mostly 
from the Quaker members. These were largely abolition- 
ists and they looked upon colonization as an aid to slavery. 
The minority seceded and continued to meet at New Garden 
till most of them had moved to the West. The society, 
however, continued to grow. In 1821, Benjamin Lundy 
appeared in North Carolina and made anti-slavery speeches 
in Guilford and Randolph Counties. He came from Ten- 
nessee, where Elihu Embree had already inaugurated a 
promising anti-slavery movement. 1 In 1824 the term 
"Colonization" was dropped from the name of the society. 
In 1825 there were thirty-three local societies 2 with a total 
of more than 1000 members. In 1827 there were forty 
branches ; but this was the flood-tide of the movement. 
Public sentiment was turning against the cause of the aboli- 
tionists, as has been already seen. In 1834 the society had 
its last meeting. Of those who had been leaders many had 
emigrated. Many of the rank and file had either gone 
away or been frightened by the greater vehemence of the 
pro-slavery advocates. Whatever of vitality it had left 
seems to have been thrown into support of the Under- 

J Hoss: "Sketch of Elihu Embree." Publication of Vanderbilt 
Southern History Association, No. 2, 1897. 

2 Weeks says thirty-six, but names only thirty-three. "Southern 
Quakers," p. 240. 

387] Religious Life. 71 

ground Railway. It became in its later days emphatically 
abolitionist. It advised its members to subscribe for 
Lundy's paper, and in 1830 it passed resolutions in support 
of William Lloyd Garrison. 1 

The Presbyterian Church of North Carolina had never so 
large a proportion of negro members as the Methodist or 
Baptist Churches, but it opened its doors as freely to the 
slaves. These were given special seats and admitted to the 
sacrament of the communion after the whites. That many of 
them became faithful and obedient Christians there can be 
no doubt. Rev. J. D. Mitchell, a Presbyterian pastor of 
Lynchburg, Va., said in 1858, after twenty-seven years in the 
pastorate : "Our colored members have exhibited a uniform 
consistency of moral and religious character. In my long 
pastorate I remember only three cases of discipline among 
the servants. * * * Instances of high-toned piety are 
frequent among them." 2 The Southern Presbyterian bore 
evidence that the Bible was often read in the churches where 
there were negroes, especially the parts dealing with the 
duties of master and slaves. The reading of the Bible, it 
thought, was not necessary to getting to heaven, and if 
slaves were taught to read they would read incendiary liter- 
erature more than the Bible. "There are more pious per- 
sons among the blacks," it added, "than among any sim- 
ilar class of people in the world." 3 It is likely that the atti- 
tude of this Church in North Carolina did not differ materi- 
ally from the spirit of these utterances. 

At first the Church was not hostile to emancipation in 
the abstract, but it was not inclined to wholesale abolition in 
actual practice. In 1787 the Synod of New York and Phila- 
delphia declared that it highly approved of universal liberty 
and of "the interest which many States had taken in pro- 
moting the abolition of slavery ;" but since indolent and 

'See "North Carolina Manumission Society," by C. C. Weaver, 
Trinity College (N. C.) Historical Papers, series 1, p. 71. 
2 Quoted in De Bow's Review, vol. 24, pp. 277 and 279. 
* Ibid., vol. 18, p. 52. 

72 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [388 

ignorant persons would be a disadvantage in a community, 
it urged that slaves be educated, that they be encour- 
aged to buy themselves, and that members use all efforts to 
secure abolition of slavery. 1 In 1795 the question of fellow- 
ship with slaveholders was up, but elicited nothing but an 
injunction to brotherly love and charity. The same 
body in 181 5 urged members to give religious education to 
the slaves, so that they might be fit for freedom when God 
might "open the door for their emancipation." At the 
same time it declared that trading in slaves and cruelty 
toward them were contrary to the spirit of Christ. The 
split between the Northern and Southern wings of the 
Church was already in sight, although it did not proceed 
so rapidly as among the Methodists. In 1818 the General 
Assembly endorsed abolition in the abstract and expressed 
sympathy for the South where most of the virtuous people 
were thought to be for emancipation. It urged such peo- 
ple to continue their efforts and exhorted others not to make 
"uncharitable reflection on their brethren, who unhappily 
live among slaves whom they "cannot immediately set free." 
It also spoke decidedly against the separation of slave fam- 
ilies by sale. Any church member who would do this 
ought to be suspended from fellowship, "unless there be 
such peculiar circumstances attending the case as can but 
seldom happen." 2 For some time after this the question 
was not brought up ; but in 1835 it would be ignored no 
longer. A committee was appointed on the matter, and 
the next year it reported that slavery was a civil question 
and ought not to be considered by the Assembly. After 
some debate the matter was indefinitely postponed. But it 
was up again in 1845, when it was resolved that "since 
Christ and his inspired Apostles did not make the holding 
of slaves a bar to communion, we, as a Court of Christ, have 
no authority to do so ; since they did not attempt to remove 

J See " Presbyterianism and Slavery," an official document pub- 
lished for the use of the General Assembly in 1836. 
2 Ibid., pp. 6-8. 

389] Religious Life. 73 

it from the Church by legislation, we have no authority to 
legislate on that subject." The progress of the slaves could 
not be obtained by ecclesiastical legislation or by "indis- 
criminate denunciations against slaveholders, without 
regard to their character or circumstances."' The resolu- 
tion passed by 168 to 13 votes. 1 By such action this con- 
servative Church put off its division till the war was actually 
at hand. This relation of the general Church to slavery 
must have influenced the attitude of the local Church. It 
no doubt kept up a conservative and abiding interest in the 
welfare of the slave on the part of the Church authorities. 
What Henry Evans was in the Methodist Church and 
Ralph Freeman in the Baptist, John Chavis was in the 
Presbyterian Church. In native ability he was no doubt 
equal to either of the other two, but in education he was 
superior to them. He was, probably, born in Granville 
County, near Oxford, about 1763. He was a full-blooded 
negro of dark brown color. He was born free. In 
early life he attracted the attention of the whites, and he was 
sent to Princeton College to see if a negro would take a 
collegiate education. He was a private pupil under the 
famous Dr. Witherspoon, and- his ready acquisition of 
knowledge soon convinced his friends that the experiment 
would issue favorably. After leaving Princeton he went to 
Virginia, sent thither, no doubt, to preach to the negroes. 
In 1801 he was at the Hanover (Virginia) Presbytery, "rid- 
ing as a missionary under the direction of the General 
Assembly." In 1805, at the suggestion of Rev. Henry 
Patillo, of North Carolina, he returned to his native State. 
For some cause, I know not what, it was not till 1809 that 
he was received as a licentiate by the Orange Presbytery. 
Although he preached frequently to the regular congrega- 
tions at Nutbush, Shiloh, Island Creek, and other churches 
in the neighborhood, I do not find that he was called to a 
church as pastor. Mr. George Wortham, a lawyer of Gran- 
tee "American Slavery as Viewed and Acted on by the Presby- 
terian Church in America," by Rev, A. T. McGill, 1865. 

74 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [390 

ville County, said in 1883 : "I have heard him read and ex- 
plain the Scriptures to my father's family repeatedly. His 
English was remarkably pure, containing no 'negroisms;' 
his manner was impressive, his explanations clear and con- 
cise, and his views, as I then thought and still think, entirely 
orthodox. He was said to have been an acceptable preacher, 
his sermons abounding in strong common sense views and 
happy illustrations, without any efforts at oratory or sensa- 
tional appeals to the passions of his hearers. He had certainly 
read God's Word much and meditated deeply on it. He had 
a small but select library of theological works, in which were 
to be found the works of Flavel, Buxton, Boston, and others. 
I have now two volumes of "Dwight's Theology," which 
were formerly in his possession. He was said by his old 
pupils to have been a good Latin and a fair Greek scholar. He 
was a man of intelligence on general subjects and conversed 
well." He continued to preach till in 1831 the Legislature 
forbade negroes to preach. It was a trial to him and he 
appealed to the Presbytery. That body could do nothing 
more than recommend him "to acquiesce in the decision of 
the Legislature referred to, until God in his providence shall 
open to him a path of duty in regard to the exercise of his 
ministry." Acquiesce he did. He died in 1838 and the 
Presbytery continued to his widow the pension which it had 
formerly allowed to him. 

Mr. Chavis' most important work was educational. 
Shortly after his return to North Carolina he opened a class- 
ical school, teaching in Granville, Wake, and Chatham 
Counties. His school was for the patronage of the whites. 
Among his patrons were the best people of the neighbor- 
hood. Among' his pupils were Willie P. Mangum, after- 
wards United States Senator, and Priestley H. Mangum, his 
brother, Archibald and John Henderson, sons of Chief Jus- 
tice Henderson, Charles Manly, afterwards Governor of the 
State, Dr. James L. Wortham of Oxford, N. C, and many 
more excellent men who did not become so distinguished 
in their communities. Rev. James H. Horner, one of the 

391] Religious Life. 75 

best teachers of high schools the State has produced, said 
of John Clavis : "My father not only went to school to 
him but boarded in his family * * * The school was 
the best at that time to be found in the State." 

All accounts agree that John Chavis was a gentleman. 
Mr. Paul C. Cameron, a son of Judge Duncan Cameron, 
and a prominent man in Orange County, said : "In my 
boyhood life at my father's home I often saw John 
Chavis, a venerable old negro man, recognized as a 
freeman and as a preacher or clergyman of the Presby- 
terian Church. As such he was received by my father 
and treated with kindness and consideration, and respected 
as a man of education, good sense, and most estimable 
character. * * * He seemed familiar with the pro- 
prieties of social life, yet modest and unassuming, and 
sober in his language and opinions. He was polite — yes, 
courtly; but it was from his heart and not affected. I 
remember him as a man without guile. His conversation 
indicated that he lived free from all evil or suspicion, seeking 
the good opinion of the public by the simplicity of his life 
and the integrity of his conduct. If he had any vanity he 
most successfully concealed it. * * * I write of him as 
I remember him and as he was appreciated by my superiors, 
whose respect he enjoyed." The same gentleman adds that 
the slaves were amazed to see a negro receive so much 
respect from the whites. Others have confirmed Mr. Cam- 
eron's statement. 1 From a source of the greatest respecta- 
bility I have learned that this negro was received as an 
equal socially and asked to table by the most respecta- 
ble people of the neighborhood. Such was the position of 
the best specimen of the negro race in North Carolina in 
the days before race prejudices were aroused. It goes with- 
out saying that such a negro would not receive the same 

2 The facts here given were collected by Dr. Charles Phillips, of the 
University of North Carolina, and used by Dr. C. L. Smith for the 
short sketch of John Chavis, which he included in his "History of 
Education in North Carolina," Washington, D. C, 1888, pp. 138-140. 

76 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [392 

treatment to-day. That such is true is due to that strenuous 
state of feeling which preceded and followed forcible eman- 
cipation. So much the cause of humanity would have gained 
could slavery have been removed by reason ! 

In 1830 John Clavis, described as an educated colored 
Presbyterian preacher, was teaching a school for free col- 
ored children in Raleigh. Joseph Gales attended a public 
examination at this school in April, 1830, and said in his 
paper: "It was an example, both in behavior and scholar- 
ship which their white superiors might take pride in imitat- 
ing." He complimented a speech in which Chavistold his 
pupils that they possessed but an humble station in life ; 
but that even they could make themselves useful. 1 

The Protestant Episcopal Church was not indifferent to 
the spiritual welfare of the slaves, although it had not so 
many slave members as some other churches. The pro- 
portion is indicated for 1857, as follows : Communicants, 
white 2341, colored 345; and catechumens (Sunday School 
pupils), white 1105 and colored 488. In 1858 it was: Com- 
municants, white 2364 and colored 353 ; and catechumens, 
white 943 and colored 351. I have been unable to find full 
statistics for the whole time, but the above figures show the 
proportions for the years when this church probably had 
its largest number of members. 

Here the members must have been mostly house servants, 
since the Episcopalians were largely slaveholders, and the 
2364 communicants must have owned many thousands of 
slaves. Usually the colored people occupied the seats reserved 
for the slaves, as in other churches. Sometimes there were 
special missions for the slaves. Capt. T. W. Battle, of Edg- 
combe County, had one, but discontinued it after a year 
because the slaves took no interest in it. Mr. Josiah Collins 
and Rev. W. S. Pettigrew had similar enterprises in Wash- 
ington County, and there seems to have been one in connec- 
tion with the church at Tarborough. 2 

1 Raleigh Register, April 19, 1830. 

2 For facts here mentioned I am indebted to Dr. K. P. Battle of the 
University of North Carolina. 



Population. — At the outbreak of the Revolution there were 
by the most probable estimate 36,000 colored people in 
North Carolina. 1 From then till 1790 no facts for an esti- 
mate have come under my observation. From the latter 
date till i860 the numbers of whites, free negroes and slaves, 
as included in the census tables, were as follows : 






































































From this table it is seen that the increase of the whites 
was slow, being normal at about 13^ per cent., a rate 
decidedly slower than that maintaining since the war. This 
slow increase is no doubt due largely to emigration which 
took off many of the non-slaveholding farmers to the 
Northwest and many of the slaveholders to the far South. 
The latter movement was strongest from 1800 to 1840; the 
former from 1830 to i860. Where the two overlapped, 
from 1830 to 1840, the population was well-nigh stationary. 

1 See " Slavery and .Servitude in North Carolina," p. 22. 


78 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [394 

The number of free negroes depended on the number of 
emancipations plus the natural increase in the free negro 
families. Emancipation was considerably practiced till 1820. 
After that the laws grew harder on free negroes. Many of 
them left the State, and thus the increase was reduced. 
During the last decade of slavery this increase was smaller 
than ever before, and had slavery endured till 1870 it would, 
no doubt, have been well-nigh nothing. 

Of the slave population the greatest increase was from 
1790 to 1800, when the slave trade was still allowed, but 
after this source of increase had been destroyed there is a 
decided falling off. The remarkable drop from 1830 to 1840 
has sometimes been attributed to an erroneous census. If the 
claim be true then it is still true that the increase was very 
small, since from 1830 to 1850 it was only 17.48 per cent. 
In the days when many whites moved to Georgia and Ala- 
bama, and other cotton States, there must have been a con- 
siderable drain on the numbers of the slave population. 
But later on when the great demand for slaves in these States 
had raised the price paid for them a great many more were 
sent. This probably accounts for the slow increase in the 
census tables after 1830. 

There were 34,658 slaveholders in North Carolina in 
i860, and these owned in all 331,059 slaves, or an average of 
9.6 to each owner. In Virginia there were 9.4 slaves to 
each owner, and in South Carolina there were 15. For 
North Carolina there had been from 1850 till i860 a lessen- 
ing of the number of slaves to an owner, since it was in 1850 
10. 1 slaves to each owner. 

Distribution. — In the colonial period the eastern counties 
had most of the slaves ; but throughout the period of state- 
hood the West acquired continually more of them. It never 
had as many as the East, but along the upland rivers, and 
wherever in the West. there was fertile land, there the large 
slave-tended farm was found. This was true of the upper 
Roanoke section of the Yadkin, and of other river sections. 
In 1790 there! were in the r western counties 30,068 slaves 

395] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 79 

and in the East 70,504. In i860 the same western counties 
had 146,463 slaves and the eastern 184,596. In the West 
the ratio of increase in seventy years was 387 per cent., 
while in the East it was 161 per cent. In 1790 there were in 
the same western counties 136,655 whites, and in i860 the 
number was 385,724. In 1790 the same eastern counties 
had 151,549 whites, and in i860 they had 244,218. Thus it 
will be seen that for these seven decades the ratio for the 
increase of the whites in the West was 182 per cent., and for 
those in the East it was 61 per cent. 1 Plainly enough the 
West was gaining rapidly on the East in regard to slave 
population. This was partly due to the extension of the 
area of cotton cultivation. Counties like Mecklenberg, 
Anson and Union were properly under the influence of the 
western ideas and life in 1790; but in i860 they were great 
cotton counties and largely slaveholding. Moreover, in 
other western counties, which by 1800 were past the pioneer 
stage, there grew up continually numerous wealthy families. 
They owned slaves. The slaves competed with the small 
white farmers. Thus there began slowly that process by 
which slavery always eats out all the life of a free yeomanry. 
The small farmers sold their farms and moved to the 
Northwest, the slaveholders bought the farms and consoli- 
dated landholding. Had slavery continued till the present 
time some wonderful changes would have taken place in this 
part of the State. There is every reason to believe that 
besides the tobacco industry, which might profitably have 
been conducted here, this would have become, along with 
parts of Virginia, a notable breeding ground for slaves to be 
sent southward. 

The progress of the slave population in the State could 
not have been due in any considerable extent to importa- 

1 Of course the selection of a dividing line between the East and the 
West is a matter more or less arbitrary, but the change of a dozen 
counties along this line, where white and black populations remained 
relatively constant, would make no appreciable difference in the 
proportions given in the text. 

80 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [396 

tion. Before the final prohibition of the foreign slave trade 
by Congress in 1808, there was a strong feeling against it 
in North Carolina. In 1774 the Provincial Congress of the 
colony resolved that they would not import or purchase 
any slaves brought into the colony after November, 1774. 1 
This was part of the body of resolutions by the first Pro- 
vincial Congress, and was due as much to the desire to 
retaliate on Great Britain as to opposition to the slave 
trade. How well this resolution was executed I am not 
able to say ; but it was, no doubt, often violated ; for, in 1786 
(chap. 5), the Assembly passed a law the preamble of which 
ran: "Whereas, The importation of slaves into this State 
is productive of evil consequences and highly impolitic." 
In accordance with this patriotic sentiment 40 shillings was 
to be levied on each imported slave under seven years old and 
over forty, and £ 5 on those from seven to> twelve and from 
thirty to forty years, and £10 en those from twelve 
to thirty years. This duty was to be levied whether 
the slaves were imported by land or by sea. This was 
aimed avowedly at the slave trade, and exception was made 
in favor of incoming settlers who brought slaves, and per- 
sons who received foreign slaves by gift, marriage or inheri- 
tance. Besides, a tax of £5 was to be collected on all 
slaves imported directly from Africa. A further section pro- 
hibited the introduction into the State of slaves from the 
States which had then recently liberated their slaves, and 
directed that those already so imported should be sent to 
the places whence they came. The motives for making this 
law I can know only inferentially. There seems to have 
been behind it an honest desire to restrict the number of 
slaves in North Carolina, and a purpose to protect domestic 
slavery from the disquieting influence of the more unman- 
ageable slaves from Africa and the West Indies. 

The public opinion, however, soon changed, and the act 

'"Colonial Records of North Carolina," IX, p. 1046. Also 
"American Archives," 4th series, I, p. 735. 

397J Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 81 

was repealed in 1790. But almost immediately there 
occurred an incident which secured the enactment of still 
severer laws against the slave trade. I refer to the Haytien 
outbreak, which occurred in 1791. These outrages, bad as 
they were, were exaggerated in American minds and filled 
Southern hearts with terror. 1 In 1794 (chap. 2) a strict law 
was passed forbidding the importation of slaves or indented 
colored persons under a penalty of £ 100 fine. This law 
did not forbid a person who came into the State to settle 
to bring his slaves with him. A year later (Laws of 1795, 
chap. 16) it was provided that this privilege should not 
apply to persons coming from the West Indies, the Bahamas 
and the "southern coast of America," if the imported 
negroes were over fifteen years old. 

The foreign slave trade was prohibited by Congress from 
1808, and in the same year the North Carolina Assembly 
repealed its law of 1794. 2 The National Statute left the 
disposition of the illegally imported slaves to the States in 
which they should be taken up. The North Carolina 
Assembly took up the matter in 1816 (chap. 12), and enacted 
that such slaves should be sold by the sheriff for the use of 
the State, one-fifth to go to the informer. This law 
remained in force till the war. 3 This National Statute could 
not have been enforced very well, if at all, before 1816, for 
the law of that year provided that slaves imported into the 
State from abroad before 1816 and the descendants of the 
same should not be sold according to this law, but that the 
owners thereof should have legal titles made out and certi- 
fied by the sheriffs. In view of this law and of the general 
loose administration of the National Statute in the South, 
it is safe to say that it was not always enforced in North 
Carolina after 1816. 

x See Du Bois: " Suppression of the Slave Trade," pp. 72 and 73. 
2 Laws of 1808, chap. 16. 

3 Revised Statutes, chap, in, sees. 1-6, and Revised Code, chap. 
107, sees. 1-6. 

82 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [398 

As to the prices of slaves it has been impossible to pro- 
cure any trustworthy evidence. It is enough to call atten- 
tion to the fact that the opening of the cotton industry with 
the greater demand for slaves in the Gulf States continued 
to advance the prices. Slavery became more profitable, and 
North Carolina found it fixed in her life more than was 
formerly expected. It has already been pointed out how 
slavery extended itself at this period into the western 
counties with the probable reason that this region raised 
slaves for the Southern markets. It was the ever acting law 
of economic rent applied to slaveholding. As the price 
of the product increased, territory that was formerly below 
the point of diminishing returns was now taken within the 
area of cultivation. 

The Regulation of the Slave's Life.- — -Next to the loss of 
liberty the worst evil connected with slavery was the fact 
that it left the welfare of the slave to the accidental temper 
of the master. If the latter were humane and intelligent 
the slave fared well. If he were otherwise the slave fared 
poorly. A correspondent has called to my attention the 
fact that a master's treatment of his slaves corresponded 
relatively to his treatment of his children: good father, 
good master; careless or cruel father, careless or cruel mas- 
ter. There were all kinds of masters as there are all kinds 
of fathers. Some undoubtedly were cruel ; some undoubt- 
edly were wisely humane; many were neither the one nor 
the other, but gave their slaves such care as custom 
demanded, just as many men clothe and train their chil- 
dren without really having any opinions of their own about 
the matter. 

Of the slave-owners there were the holders of large slave 
herds and the holders of few slaves. Of the former there was 
the cultured class of planters and the more ordinary class 
of wealthy farmers about which I have already spoken. 
The gentleman planter type was not so numerous in North 
Carolina as elsewhere in the South. Such masters were 
often absentee landlords, though this was not general in 

399] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 83 

the State. Here their relation to the slaves was patriarchal. 
As a class they were careful of the slaves' health and morals, 
and philanthropic students of the theories of good master- 
ship. The wealthy farmers rarely lived away from their 
estates. They were usually religious. They were thrifty and 
honest. Their sons worked in the fields along with the 
slaves, sometimes leading the plow gang, and sometimes 
swinging a cradle in the harvest. Their wives superintended 
the making of the slave clothing, the cooking of the slave 
dinners, and the nursing of the slave patients. Here the 
slave fared best, and this class was strong in North Carolina. 
It extended all over the State, and was extensively found 
in the West. The lot of the slave who belonged to the owner 
of few slaves might be bad — and was usually not good. He 
was frequently overworked or underfed. The straitened 
condition of his master, often not an enlightened man, was 
responsible for this. 

Next to the master the overseer was the most important 
personage. If the master were absent his powers were 
great. He was usually a white man, but rarely a slave. 
Often a man owned several plantations, on each of which 
he would place an overseer, and over all of which he would 
keep continual oversight. Overseers were of two classes. 
Those on large plantations must be men of intelligence and 
men who could take care of slaves as property. They com- 
manded good salaries, often getting $100 a month. On the 
smaller plantations inferior men were employed, and the 
slaves there were not so well cared for. Here an overseer 
was well paid at from $200 to $400 a year. What an over- 
seer should do properly to fulfill his office may be seen in 
the statement of a master in De Bozv's Magazine in 1856. 1 
In managing negroes, says the writer, the first aim of the 
overseer should be to obey the instructions of the master 
in respect to them ; the second to satisfy them that he is 
doing so. He should always allow the slave easy appeal to 

'Vol. 21, p. 277. 

84 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [400 

the master, and not to do so must be due to bad temper, 
false dignity, or the notion that the slave has no rights. If 
a slave makes a false complaint he should be punished for 
it, and the privilege of complaining should not extend to mat- 
ters affecting the overseer's character, for a negro may not 
testify against a white man. Some overseers declared that 
no negroes should complain of them, and that if they did, 
they (the overseers) would whip them in spite of the masters. 
"This," exclaimed the writer, "is simply brutal and no man 
of spirit will permit it." Still it is bad policy not to punish 
a slave without the consent of the master. An overseer 
should be kind to the slaves, speaking in a low tone, but 
firmly. Negroes should not be fretted at, for it injured their 
capacity for work, and when practiced on the young had 
been known to lessen their value. Fretting also injured the 
overseer. "The habit of swearing at or before negroes an 
overseer should never indulge in. If the negro is not 
allowed to swear because it is disrespectful to the over- 
seer, the latter should not swear because it is disrespectful 
to his Maker. Besides, it shocks some pious negroes and 
sets a bad example to them all." The overseer should visit 
the cabins and promote cleanliness there, see that clothes 
and shoes are repaired, and on Sunday he should require all 
the slaves to appear in clean clothes. He should rather 
encourage their taste for finery than ridicule it. He should 
consult with the old men about the work — some of them 
were very intelligent. He should be disposed to share their 
labor. "Nothing more reconciles a negro to his work than 
the overseer sharing it with him. Let him go with them 
in heat, rain and cold. If they shuck corn at night let him 
be with them." Another writer in the same magazine 1 
declared that no one should try to manage slaves who had 
not firmness, fearlessness and self-control. Punishment 
should not be cruel. "If ever any of my negroes are cruelly 
and inhumanely treated, bruised, maimed, or otherwise 

l Vol. 21, pp. 617-620. 

401] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 85 

injured," the overseer was dismissed. Each place was to 
keep enough milch cows to furnish miik for the slaves. The 
overseer must care for the sick, especially for the pregnant 
women. Nurses should be provided for the sick, and 
mothers of young children should not be assigned full tasks. 
These regulations were prepared by two successful farmers 
who did not live in North Carolina yet they are standards for 
slavery as a whole, and bring to us vividly the office of the 
overseer. Possibly they were never enforced entirely. Cer- 
tainly they could not have been always enforced, but there 
is no doubt that the spirit of them was present on many 
plantations. It was this spirit and its practical realization 
in many ways which gave some foundation to the claim 
that the master provided better for the physical wants of 
the slaves than the freed negro provides for himself in the 
days since the war. The claim is to-day debatable, but it is 
necessary to remember that physical wants are not the chief 
thing in life. i : '; 

I have been able to get the following account of slave 
life on a rice plantation near Wilmington, N. C. My 
informant is a son of the* gentleman who owned the place 
for some years before the war, and in his young manhood 
he was overseer on the farm. He is now a prosperous physi- 
cian, and I have every reason to believe that his informa- 
tion is trustworthy. He says : "There were about one 
hundred slaves on the plantation. They were called at dawn 
and went to the fields under the care of drivers at sunrise. 
Two meals were served each day, one at 9 a. m. and one 
at 1 or 2 p. m. The daily allowance of food was one quart 
of meal, which was given from March 1 till October 1, one- 
half a pound of meat, and one pint of molasses a week for 
each adult. Sweet potatoes were given from October to 
March instead of meal, and peas were allowed in planting 
time. There was a regular allowance of tobacco. The 
meals were prepared by the cooks and sent to the field ready 
cooked. Milk was furnished at the cook's place. The 
tasks were light, and most of them were finished by 2 p. m. 

86 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [402 

After they were done the slaves might do what they liked. 
They usually slept or went fishing-. Among themselves the 
slaves were immoral, but, generally speaking, there were 
no illicit relations between them and the white men. The 
white boys were sometimes intimate with the housemaids. 
The slaves went to Sunday School, and the owners of this 
and the adjoining farms paid a Methodist preacher to 
preach to them once a month." But my informant saw but 
small results in the field hands. The negroes were con- 
tented and happy among themselves, if let alone by out- 
side influences. The owner always counted on their stealing 
and took no notice of small offenses. They were not 
allowed to go- off the plantation, except by special permis- 
sion. They were not allowed to buy whiskey, but occa- 
sionally the master would give it to them, and it was a race 
trait that all of them, men, women and children, liked it. 
Under the care of his owner the slave's health was good, 
much better than it is now. Slave mothers frequently 
neglected their children, while for the children of the whites 
they manifested great affection. This last point is often 
corroborated. Said another gentleman : "I have often seen 
the slave women come from the fields to* the house of the old 
woman who took care of the small children during the day, 
take their babies in their arms, nurse them, and put them 
down without the least show of affection." 

"Negro slavery," continued the gentleman whose state- 
ments I was just quoting, "was profitable in producing rice, 
cotton and turpentine. One good hand could thus make 
in rice from $300 to $400 a year above his expenses, and in 
turpentine he could make as much as $1000 a year. On the 
farm in question $10,000 a year was cleared in bank from 
the rice crop. When masters made no profit it was because 
the negroes were not properly cared for. Few of the old 
slaveholders had runaway negroes. These negroes usually 
afflicted people who had recently begun to have slaves, par- 
ticularly Northern men who had married and settled in the 
South. These people did not understand the negro, and 

403] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 87 

expected too much from him. A man who was cruel to his 
negroes was not highly respected in the community by the 
best people. An evidence of the solicitude of the good mas- 
ters for their slaves was the difficulty which the authorities 
experienced in getting slaves hired to them to' construct forti- 
fications at the outbreak of the war. Masters would not trust 
their slaves in the hands of the officers. Among the promi- 
nent characteristics of the negro," concludes my informant, 
"were no gratitude, no resentment and a deep love of home." 
By the side of this statement I am fortunately able to place 
the account of slave life on the plantation of a well-to-do 
farmer of the central part of the State. The farmer was a 
well-known Baptist preacher, and the account is from his 
son, who is now a respected minister in the same church. 
The locality was in the area of cotton production, and on 
the farm were from forty to fifty slaves. The narrator says : 

I never saw or knew [my father] to whip [a slave] save sometime 
to correct a child for some evil, and then the whipping was light. He 
never overworked them, for I was for a number of years foreman of 
eight or ten plows. They started to work when I started; when I 
rested they rested; when I stopped at evening they stopped; when I 
got a holiday they got one. They ate what I ate, though at different 
tables. Never a day's ration was issued to any of them. They were 
well housed and were allowed to use all the firewood they needed 
from the same yard from which the white family got its own supply. 
They were well shod and clothed, wearing the same kind of goods I 
used on the farm — all home-made. In winter all the slaves, from 
the youngest to the oldest, wore woollens. My father retained two 
of the best physicians in the county to give them any needed atten- 
tion, the same as his family had. He gave each year to each slave 
large enough to work a "patch of ground" and the time to work it, in 
order that each might have some money of his own to spend as he 
chose. The breeding women he was always careful should never 
be worked too hard or in any way strained. When any of the slave 
children were very sick they were brought into the house of the 
white family and there attended as one of the white children. He 
always provided for them to go to church on Sunday, allowing them 
to use the farm teams when necessary. They were invited to family 
prayers in the room of my parents. He often urged his children to 
read the Bible to them in their own houses, for each slave family had 

88 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [404 

a separate home, which, in the main, was more comfortable than 
three-fourths of the colored people now have, or perhaps nine-tenths 
of them. One of his old slaves told me recently 1 that he has never 
been as happy or well provided for since he has been free as he 
was while a slave. Much more I could say, but this is perhaps 
enough. I state the above on my honor as a Christian minister. 
P. S. — He never allowed his sons to whip any of the field hands. 

In a further communication the same gentleman says of 
slavery as an institution : 

It never paid my father, only by the increase of his slaves. His 
land was poor and this may have been the reason why he never made 
any money by it only as above stated. He never kept any account 
of debtor and creditor in running his farm. I was very well acquainted 
over the county in ante belluin days and knew of but one or two par- 
ties who failed to clothe well and treat well their slaves. Those par- 
ties, like some of this day, never had a good set of harness, or good 
stock or farm tools. In all my section of the county I knew of no 
whites who did not own some land and have their own homes. I 
knew but one free negro, a woman, and she lived with my father. 
She was a housemaid and worked for her victuals and clothes. 

The difference between the conditions of slaves in North 
and South Carolina is illustrated graphically in the follow- 
ing statement of a negro whom Mr. Olmsted met in South 
Carolina about 1855. 2 The negro was free, and with his 
son had come from Rockingham County, N. C, to peddle 
out two wagon loads of tobacco in eastern South Carolina. 
Said the old man in the course of the conversation : 

"Fac' is, master, 'pears like wite folks doan ginerally like niggars 
in dis country; dey doan ginerally talk so to niggars like as do in my 
country; de niggars ain't so happy heah; 'pears like the wite folks is 
kind o' different, somehow." 

"Well, I've been thinking myself the niggers did not look so well 
here as they did in North Carolina and Virginia; they are not so well 
clothed, and they don't appear so bright as they do there." 

"Well, massa," was the answer, "Sundays dey is mighty well 
clothed, dis country; 'pears like dere ain't nobody looks better Sun- 
days dan dey do. But, Lord ! working days, seems like dey had no 

1 This narrative was sent me in 1896. 

2 "Journey to the Seaboard Slave States," pp. 389-393. 

405] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 89 

close dey could keep on 'em at all, master. Dey is almost naked 
wen dey's at work, some un 'em. Why, master, up in our country 
de wite folks, why some un 'em has ten or twelve; dey doan hev no 
real big plantations like dey has heah, but some un 'em has ten or 
twelve niggars, maybe, and dey juss lives and talks along wid 'em. 
If dey gits a niggar and he doan behave himself, dey won't keep him; 
dey juss tell him, sar, he must look up anudder master, and if he doan 
find himself one, I tell 'ou, wen the trader cum along, dey sell him 
and he totes him away. Dey always sell off all de bad niggars out 
of our country; dat's de way all de bad niggar and all dem no-account 
niggar keep a comin' down heah; dat's de way on't, master." 

To this, which is offered only for what it is worth, add the 
statement of Mr. Olmsted himself: "So far as I have 
observed," he says, "slaves show themselves worthy of trust 
most where their masters are most considerate and liberal 
to them. Far more so, for instance, on the small farms in 
North Carolina than on the plantations of Virginia and 
South Carolina." 1 

Here we have three pictures, more or less complete, of 
slave life ( i ) on a fertile farm in the East, under conditions 
of extensive farming, (2) on a large farm in the central part 
of the State, and (3) on the small farms of the western part 
of the State. I must believe that each picture is given fairly, 
so far as it goes. All show that slavery in North Carolina 
was not so harsh as elsewhere. To this conclusion I may 
add the positive evidence of Mr. Olmsted. He says : "The 
aspect of North Carolina with regard to slavery is, in some 
respects, less lamentable than that of Virginia. There is not 
only less bigotry upon the subject and more freedom of 
conversation, but I saw here, in the institution more of the 
patriarchal than in any other State. The slave more 
frequently appears as a family servant — a member of his 
master's family, interested with him in the fortune, good or 
bad. This is the result of less concentration of wealth in 
families or individuals * * * Slavery thus loses much 
of its inhumanity. It is still questionable, however, if, as 

1 " Journey to the Seaboard Slave States," p. 447. 

90 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [406 

the subject race approaches civilization, the dominant race 
is not proportionately detained in its progress." 1 

I am able also to publish the following from a gentleman 
of great intelligence and humanity, who was intimately 
connected by birth and association with the most prominent 
people of the State. He says : 

I did not like the institution of slavery, but I wish you to know : 
(i) That while the laws were severe the natural amiability of the 
people tempered the administration of them. I never whipped a 
grown up slave in my life, nor did my father, nor brothers; and such 
families were the rule and not the exception. Nor did I ever witness 
any of the scenes of barbarity so much spoken of. Although a large 
slaveholder, and raised among slaveholders, I never saw a grown 
person punished in my life. By grown person I mean fifteen and 
sixteen years old and upwards. The separation of husband and wife, 
parent and young child, were not common. My family never did it, 
nor did any of the families known to me, and I am sure that the 
great majority of families in North Carolina would not allow it. 

(2) To balance the cases of barbarity I wish you to remember that 
the wives and other dependents of slaves were protected by the 
owners from brutality on the part of their slave-husbands, etc. The 
awful, horrible brutality of drunken husbands and fathers as seen in 
England, and the cities of the North was not allowed in the South. 

(3) You should not attribute to slaves the fine feelings of whites. 
They had recently been savages. Separation of children from 
parents, etc., was not to them what it is to whites. But there was in 
practice no more separation than in New England families, whose 
children as a rule scatter over the whole face of the earth. (4) The 
sum of misery was no greater among them practically than among 
the laboring classes in free countries. You may not believe all this, 
but I hope that it will be within your plan to mention that slave- 
owners claim this. 

On the subject of mulattoes the same correspondent writes: 
The number of mulattoes must not be held to prove correspond- 
ing licentiousness on the part of the whites. Many of them were 
descended from Indians and many were descended from mulattoes 
lawfully married. * * * The mulattoes were employed in towns 
and were hence more observed. I have seen great plantations with 
not one of them — all black. 

If I were defending a side in the never ended controversy 
about the treatment of slaves by their masters, it would only 

1 "Journey to the Seaboard Slave States," p. 367. 

407] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 91 

be necessary to point out here that the essence of the misery 
of slavery in the South and elsewhere was not physical 
suffering, however frequently or infrequently that may have 
occurred, but the mental and spiritual wretchedness that 
follow a loss of liberty. If you deny the rights of man to 
the negro slaves you cut the heart out of the anti-slavery 
argument. By the side of the above testimony I shall place 
some statements from an unpublished book 1 of Dr. Eli W. 
Caruthers, of Greensboro, N. C, well known as the author of 
some valuable volumes relating to the history of the State. 
For events he claimed to know about he was the best kind of 
authority. Speaking of beating slaves cruelly, he said: "I 
have known a number [of instances] myself in which 
nobody in the neighborhood had any doubt that the death 
of the slave was caused by the severity of his treatment, but 
no attempt was made to punish the cruel perpetrators of the 
deeds." 2 The conjugal and parental instincts in the slaves 
were lessened on account of the frequent breaking of family 
ties by masters. "I have known some instances," said he, 
"in which [the slave family] have been permitted to live on 
in great harmony and affection to an advanced age, but 
such instances, so far as my observations have gone, have 
been 'like angels' visits, few and far between.' Generally, in 
a few weeks at most, they have been separated, sold off 
under the hammer like other stock and borne away to a 
returnless distance." 3 An evil result of this condition of 
affairs was that the negroes did not regard marriage as 
strictly as they ought. They married carelessly and 
separated easily. The result was much licentiousness. A 
few Christian owners did what they could to prevent the 
separation of their married slaves, but after their death, if 
not before, the slaves were sold for debt or to satisfy less 
scrupulous heirs. 4 In his own congregation was an excel- 

J " American Slavery and the Immediate Duty of Slaveholders." 
See the author's "Anti-Slavery Leaders," p. 56. 
2 Ibid., p. 282. 3 Ibid., p. 299. i Ibid., p. 307. 

92 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [408 

lent man and wife, both slaves, who were very fond of one 
another and of their children. Their master died in debt. 
Their eldest daughter was sold to a speculator, and other 
children were also sold. The honest parents were heart- 
broken and succumbed under their sorrow. "I could fill 
a volume with similar instances," exclaimed the indignant 
writer. 1 

From an intelligent gentleman, who was a large planter 
in the eastern part of the State, I have the following : 

Slaves were generally fed three times a day; but I knew several 
men who fed only twice a day. I practised medicine on many plan- 
tations and never found negroes that were so badly fed that it inter- 
fered with my treatment. A few people stinted their children and 
their slaves also. Usually the slave fared as well as the child, 
relatively speaking. If any difference was made it was in favor of 
the slave, who was property. I knew a few people who treated slaves 
badly. Such masters were brutal by nature. The morality of the 
negro was greater then than now. One fault, however, was the 
putting of more than one family into one room. This was not 
unusual on plantations. The profit to the employer of the labor of 
the slave was perhaps greater than that of the negro freeman to-day. 
The negro pays in a region where the ground has to be stirred steadily; 
but he does not pay in a grass or grain country. He has not enough 
of the faculty of direction for the latter. The negro does not want 
or need free circulation of air in his living quarters. As a rule he 
sleeps in badly ventilated apartments and seems to suffer no ill effects. 
This is a conclusion from my experience as a physician. They 
always sleep with their heads covered up. Nearly all like the taste 
of whiskey. 

From the same source I am able to give an incident, 
piteous as it is, but which from the trustworthy and direct 
source from which it comes to me I am not able to doubt. 
It illustrates most touchingly the hardships which came 
from breaking the Africans into slavery. About the begin- 
ning of this century when the large Collins plantation on 
Lake Phelps, Washington County, was being cleared a num- 
ber of negroes just from Africa were put on the work. One 

1 "American Slavery and the Immediate Duty of Slaveholders." 
See the author's "Anti-Slavery Leaders," pp. 308 and 310. 

409] Industrial and Social Relations of Slavery. 93 

of the features of the improvement was the digging of a 
canal. Many of the Africans succumbed under this work. 
When they were disabled they would be left by the bank of 
the canal, and the next morning the returning gang would 
find them dead. They were kept at night in cabins on the 
shore of the lake. At night they would begin to sing their 
native songs, and in a short while would become so wrought 
up that, utterly oblivious to the danger involved, they would 
grasp their bundles of personal effects, swing them on their 
shoulders, and setting their faces towards Africa, would 
march down into the water singing as they marched till 
recalled to their senses only by the drowning of some of 
the party. The owners lost a number of them in this way, 
and finally had to stop the evening singing. This incident 
was related to my informant by the gentleman who was 
overseer on this plantation when the incident occurred. 




Slave Conspiracies. — The possibility of slave insurrections 
was a source of the greatest solicitude to the Southern 
whites. This was heightened about the close of the last 
century by the Haytien outbreak and by the Nat Turner 
attempt in 183 1. Probably the slaves as a body were more 
rebellious a century ago, when many of them were fresh 
from African freedom, and probably the whites as time 
passed knew better how to keep the slave from rebellion. 
Certain it is that after the early decades of the nineteenth 
century there were no attempts at conspiracy among the 
North Carolina negroes. 

After the reported conspiracy in Beaufort County, just 
before the Revolution, no further trouble is reported till 
1802. In that year the extreme northeastern part of the 
State was thrown into paroxysms of terror by reports of a 
slave insurrection. It is difficult to say just what was the 
extent oi the danger there. The insurrection was at first 
reported to have gone through the counties of Camden, 
Currituck, Pasquotank, Perquimons, Chowan, Hertford, 
Martin, Bertie, Beaufort and Washington. At some places 
the slaves were reported to have done great havoc, though 
no definite acts of outrage were mentioned. Eighteen 
negroes were reported to have been executed and a large 
number to have been arrested. After awhile it was realized 
that "various extravagant and unfounded reports," as the 
Raleigh Register 1 put it, had been circulated. On July 27, 

'June 1, 2.2 and 29, 1802. 

411] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 95 

1802, this paper published a full story of the affair by a 
reliable witness. It appears that in May of this year a report 
came to be circulated that the negroes were about to revolt. 
All those who were strongly suspected were arrested. 
Excitement ran high, and mob violence was averted with 
difficulty. The negroes were at length frightened into con- 
fession. They admitted that June 10 had been set for the 
beginning of a general insurrection, and that they were 
threatened with death if they revealed it, or if they did not 
join it. On the night of the tenth they were to form into 
groups of seven or eight, fire the houses of the whites, kill 
the white males over six years old, kill the women, black 
and white, except the young and handsome white women, 
who were to be kept for wives, and the young negro women, 
who were to be kept for waitresses. After finishing in the 
country they were to go to Plymouth, N. C, where they 
expected reinforcements, and where the work of destruction 
was to be continued. A few arms were deposited in the 
swamps, and they expected to get others. They had been 
told by their leaders that the rising would cover the whole 
country. The leaders were obstinate, but after much whip- 
ping they confessed to the conspiracy. Two of them were 
executed, and the others were whipped and sent to their 
homes. How a whole State might be terrified by such 
reports as were then in the air is seen by the fact that false 
alarms were given in Halifax and Franklin Counties, and in 
the former a negro was tried and convicted, but the com- 
munity soon recovered from its shock, and both whites and 
blacks joined to petition the Governor to pardon him. 1 

In 1805 an outbreak of a similar kind was reported in 
Wayne County, about which a correspondent wrote to the 
Register 2 as follows : "We have been engaged in this county 
in the trying of negroes for poisoning the whites ever since 
Monday last. One suffered death at the stake (was burnt 

1 Raleigh Register, August 10, 17 and 24, li 
''■Ibid., July 23 and August 13, 1805. 

96 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [412 

alive) on Saturday last, for poisoning her master, mistress 
and two others. Two more are under sentence of death, and 
are to be hanged on next Wednesday." Thirteen, it was 
said, were in. prison, but some of them had been brought 
from Sampson and Johnston Counties. The accused con- 
fessed that the plan was to kill the chief white men, and to 
keep the others in slavery. Later advices stated that one 
more negro was executed besides the two mentioned, and 
others had lesser punishments, as whipping, pillorying, 
transporting and cropping the ears. In neither of these 
outbreaks, it will be noticed, is there mention of Northern 
emissaries. Whatever plan there was among the negroes 
was probably due either to their own suggestion or to some 
negro who came in from the West Indies. Either source 
was not improbable. There must have been then, and per- 
haps always, a large number of stronger minded slaves who 
resented their situation. Of this class was one, "Yellow 
Jack," who was advertised in 1812 as a runaway, who had 
been overheard to say that "all should be free, and that he 
saw no reason why the sweat of his brow should be 
expended in supporting the extravagance and idleness of 
any man," or words to that effect. 1 

In 1822 there was a slave rising in Charleston, S. C, in 
which Denmark Vesey figured a^ leader. It had no effect 
on the slaves of North Carolina, much to the relief of the 
whites there. 2 Eut in 1821 there had been trouble of some 
kind in Jones County. The militia was called out, and in 
1823 the Assembly allowed its claim for services. The 
Nat Turner insurrection of 1831 aroused great feeling in the 
State, and this was chiefly responsible for the state of terror 
that possessed the adjacent counties immediately thereafter, 
when news was circulated of a similar conspiracy in Samp- 
son and Duplin. The terror spread as far as Wake, and 
even Raleigh was put into a state of defense, even the old 

1 Raleigh Register, June 5, 1812. 

2 Ibid., August 20, and September 6, 13 and 1822. 

413] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 97 

men past the militia age volunteering for service. Johnston 
County called on Raleigh for ammunition and received a 
supply. The report stated that seventeen families had been 
murdered by the slaves. When it was reported in Hills- 
borough that Raleigh was in imminent danger the former 
place at once raised a military company and sent it to the 
latter. On careful investigation the reports were found to 
have been much exaggerated. It seems that a free negro 
had revealed a concerted plan in Duplin, Sampson, New 
Hanover, Wayne and Lenoir Counties for the negroes to 
rise on October 4, 183 1, march to Wilmington, where they 
expected to get arms and recruits. Whatever plan there 
was, no whites were harmed. Twelve alleged leaders were 
taken and shot, and three others were hanged in Duplin, 
and the people were restored to confidence. In Wilming- 
ton the excitement had been painful. At one time it was 
reported that the infuriated blacks had reached a point two 
miles from the city. The whole available population was 
put under arms. 1 When men were so carried away by the 
prevailing fear as to credit such reports as the latter it 
was not unlikely that some of their judgments were wrong. 
I have it on the authority of the son of the man who was at 
that time sheriff of Sampson County that the negroes exe- 
cuted for this crime there were innocent, and that he had 
often heard his father say as much. This was the last 
attempted slave insurrection, so far as I have been able to 
learn, in North Carolina. It is singular that we find no 
more periods of terror from reported slave insurrections 
after the triumph of the pro-slavery element. It would be 
interesting to know whether or not these frights were of 
political origin. 

The Growth of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment, — Intimately 
connected with the reported slave conspiracies was the 
growth of a stronger pro-slavery sentiment. Each period of 
excitement tended to weaken the arms of those who hoped 

Raleigh Register, October 15 and 21, 1831. 

98 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [414 

for final emancipation. It has been said that the Nat Turner 
insurrection and the active campaigns of Garrison and his 
associates turned the South into pro-slavery advocates. 
The statement is but partly true. The process of change in 
sentiment had begun some time before, and these events 
only hastened its culmination. 

There was for some years before 1831 a considerable pro- 
slavery sentiment which made its presence felt in the Legis- 
lature. It was strongest in the East where there were more 
slaves. Opposed to it were the western counties. As they 
became more and more slaveholding, the non-slaveholding 
element leaving largely for the Western States, the pro- 
slavery faction was strengthened. They were, moreover, 
a party of action and they drew young men. Those who 
hoped for emancipation had no plan of action. They only 
awaited for some door to be opened to effect their hopes. 
They could not approve of the procedure of the abolition- 
ists in the North. They realized that latent public opinion 
in the South was such that it would be folly to argue against 
slavery on the grounds of the rights of man. The half- 
hearted opposition they could make had no chance against 
the fervid arguments of the convinced and enthusiastic 
supporters of slavery. 

The steps by which the pro-slavery minority was con- 
verted into a majority are obvious. In 1818 Mr. Mears, of 
New Hanover, introduced a bill to prohibit the teaching 
of slaves to read and write. It was lost on the second read- 
ing. 1 A year later a similar bill was unanimously rejected. 2 
In 1825 a bill to prevent the escape of slaves by assuming 
the privileges of free negroes was indefinitely postponed. 
In 1825 free negroes were required to have license from the 
county justices to live in Raleigh. Licenses were given to 
those only who could prove good character. 3 In the same 
year the Governor in his annual message referred sarcasti- 

1 Raleigh Register, December 18, 1818. 

2 Ibid., December 10, 1819. 3 Ibid., February 18, 1825. 


415] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 99 

cally to resolutions of the Ohio Legislature in regard to 
abolition in the Southern States. He appreciated the inter- 
est of the non-slaveholders, but hoped they would "shortly 
learn and practice what has familiarly been termed the 
Eleventh Commandment, 'Let every one attend to his own 
concerns.' " x In the same year a bill to restrain improper 
conversation between mulattoes and free negroes on the 
subject of freedom was lost in committee. 2 Another bill to 
prevent the education of slaves, a bill to prevent free negroes 
from migrating to North Carolina and a bill to forbid 
emancipation societies were introduced but lost, the second 
by a vote as close as 56 to 47. 3 Evidently the pro-slavery 
men were in earnest. 4 

The matter became graver in 1826. In his message the 
Governor referred to a petition from the Vermont Legislature 
to the North Carolina government praying for the abolition 
of slavery. The Northern agitation, he thought, "demanded 
from us a sleepless vigilance." He recommended revision 
of the laws relating to the militia, to the patrol, and to the 
immigration of free negroes. 5 A warm debate followed in 
the Senate. Mr. Speight, of Greene, was particularly bel- 
ligerent. "As a North Carolinian he felt that he was being 
imposed upon, and that there was an improper attempt to 
dictate to the Southern States in what manner they should 
govern their own property ; and before he would tamely 
acquiesce in any infringements of his rights in this par- 

1 Raleigh Register, November 29, 1825. 

2 Ibid., December 6, 1825. 

3 Ibid., December 30, 1825, and January 3, 1826. 

* It is curious to read the estimate of the North Carolina Manumission 
Society in 1825, as to the sentiment of the people of the State on the ques- 
tion of emancipation. They said that -fa of the people wanted immediate 
emancipation, fa wanted gradual emancipation, -fa wanted emigra- 
tion, fa were totally indifferent, f§ were ready to support schemes of 
emancipation, fa opposed emancipation because impracticable, and 
fa were bitterly against it. See Weeks: "Southern Quakers and 
Slavery," p. 241. 

5 Raleigh Register, December 29, 1826. 

100 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [416 

ticular he would destroy the constitution, law and every- 
thing most dear to him." He favored referring the matter 
to a committee. Mr. Forney, of Lincoln, counseled modera- 
tion. "There was," he said, "a good deal of sensibility 
excited whenever this subject was mentioned, and a dispo- 
sition was felt to take umbrage when no offense was 
intended." The Senate referred the matter to a committee, 
but with what result does not appear. 1 In the Assembly of 
1827-28 there were several bills in regard to minor features 
of the slave controversy, but none passed. In 1828-29 a 
bill was introduced to prohibit the education of slaves and 
on the recommendation of the Judiciary Committee it was 
rejected. Both here and in the following year other bills 
were introduced to restrict the activity of slaves, but they 
failed to pass. It was only when the Governor sent in to 
the Assembly a copy of an inflammatory circular found in 
North Carolina and in other States, that passion rose to 
summer heat again. Slavery, said the Governor in his 
message, was a fixity, and "it would be criminal in the 
Legislature to attempt to avoid any responsibility growing 
out of this relation." It was known that free negroes had 
helped to circulate such literature as this, and it was recom- 
mended that they be required to give bond not to do so in the 
future. The Governor's note of warning was heard. The 
first bill introduced was to regulate the patrol. A committee 
of the House of Commons was instructed to inquire into 
the expediency of preventing the education of slaves, and a 
number of other restrictive bills and resolutions followed 
quickly. 2 

The incendiary publication referred to was by one Walker, 
of Boston. 3 I presume this was David Walker, the third 
edition of whose "Appeal in Four Articles" had just been 
issued. This appeal, said he, was made to rescue the negro 
from wretchedness in consequence of slavery, ignorance, reli- 

1 Raleigh Register, January 2, 1827. 

3 Ibid., November 18 and 25, and December 2, 1830. 

s Ibid., December 9, 1830. 

417] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 101 

gious teachers and the colonization plan. It was written by 
a negro and was intended to incite negroes to progress. 
They were urged not to be content with the position of 
menials, but to educate their children. The habit of the 
whites of teaching negro children in Sunday Schools was 
denounced, evidently because it tended to make the negroes 
contented with slavery. Garrison reprinted much of this 
pamphlet in one of the early numbers of the Liberator. 1 It 
was not openly and violently incendiary, to be sure, but it 
aimed to make the negro discontented with his lot, and 
falling into the hands of slaves might well be construed to 
lead to any kind of a stroke against their shackles. To the 
North Carolina Legislaure it was a most serious matter. 
The Senate went into secret session on it, the second secret 
session in the history of the State. The bill to prevent slaves 
being taught to read and write was taken up and went 
through the Senate on its second reading without a divi- 
sion. Mr. Robert P. Dick, of Guilford, protested 
in the name of many of his constituents who con- 
ceived that it was their duty to teach the slaves to read the 
Bible. 2 The bill was finally enacted. The tide had turned. 
The pro-slavery minority that had often tried to pass this 
bill had at last been able to get it through. This faction 
was not only supreme in the Assembly, but it soon became 
supreme in society at large. It took its case into the realm 
of literature. Arguments sociological, arguments ethno- 
logical, arguments psychological, arguments biblical, and 
goodness knows how many others were hurled at the slave. 
The very nature of the controversy engendered passion. The 
abolitionist considered slavery a crime against the slaves. 
His saying so reflected on the moral integrity of the masters. 
Specifications of the criminality were enumerated. The 
masters became angrier. The passions once kindled might 
be relied on to keep themselves burning. It would have 

x The Liberator, April 23, 1831. 

2 Raleigh Register, December 9, 1830. 

102 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [418 

taken admirable self-control for either side to have stopped 
or to have turned aside the flood. Said Mr. Julius Rock- 
well: "It is no credit to the civilization of the nineteenth 
century that slavery could not have been abolished without 
that horrid war." It was slavery itself that defeated the 
humaner forces of civilization. Had slavery not been 
slavery the minds of men might have been calmer in its 
presence, but then there had been no need of abolition. 

After the triumph of 1830 the dominant faction was more 
determined than ever to protect slavery. The Governor in 
his message in 1831 referred to the discontent among the 
slaves, and recommended the organization at the expense 
of the State of a reliable county militia to be held ready to 
march at a moment's notice. His recommendation was not 
adopted. Neither were a number of bills brought in to 
restrict the action of slaves. 

In 1835 a joint committee on incendiary literature, of 
which Thomas G. Polk was chairman, reported in favor of 
a permanent policy in regard to such literature. This the 
State could undoubtedly do and "no other State, and no 
other portion of a people of any other State can claim to 
interfere in the matter, either by authority, advice, or persua- 
sion; and such an attempt, from whatever quarter it may 
come, must ever be met by us with distrust and repelled with 
indignation. * * * Whatever institution or state of 
society we think proper to establish or to. permit is by no 
other State to be disturbed or questioned. We enter not 
into the inquiry whether such institution be deemed by 
another State just or expedient. It is sufficient that we think 
proper to allow it. * * * We do full justice to the 
general sentiments and feelings of our fellow-citizens in 
other States, and are fully aware that the attempts to> injure 
us are made by a small minority — composed probably of 
many misguided and some wicked men, and that these 
attempts meet with no favor, but on the other hand with 
marked disapprobation from a large majority of the com- 
munities in which they are made. Still it must be recollected 

419] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 103 

that from the nature of the means employed the danger to 
us is the same." "We asked not assistance," continued the 
committee, "to put down insurrectionary movements among 
our slaves, for should such occur we are fully able to put 
them down ourselves. But we ask that our slaves and our- 
selves may be relieved from external interference. Left to 
themselves, we believe our slaves, as a laboring class, are as 
little dangerous to society as any in the world. But we do 
ask, and think we have a right to demand, that others do 
not teach them evil of which they do not think themselves." 
The report closed as follows : "Though we feel the greatest 
attachment for the Union, and would do all in our power 
to strengthen and perpetuate it, yet we are not ready to 
surrender those very rights and blessings which that Union 
was formed to protect; and should the means now adopted 
prove ineffectual in stopping the progress of these attacks 
on our peace and happiness, we would invoke the aid of the 
other slaveholding States that there may be concert of action 
in taking such steps as the occasion may demand." 1 With 
this report were some resolutions in the same spirit, and 
these were passed by a large majority. 

By the side of this I should like to place a resolution which 
the Raleigh Register, June 4, 1836, said had just been 
adopted by the New England Anti-Slavery Society. It read : 

Resolved, That regarding a surrender of the right of free discus- 
sion upon the altar of Southern slavery as involving on our part the 
commission of moral suicide, treachery to the cause of civil liberty, 
of humility and guilt before high Heaven, we hereby pledge ourselves 
to one another — to the oppressor and the oppressed — to our country 
and our God — that, undeterred by threats or persecution at common 
law, v/hether in the messages of the governors, the pages of our 
theological reviews, or the reports of legislative committees — come 
what may, gag law or lynch law, we will never cease to work 
for its exercise — full, free, and undiminished — until the last fetter 
shall be broken and slavery and prejudice shall be buried in one com- 
mon grave. 

2 Raleigh Register, January 5, 1836. 

104 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [420 

Alas ! that was a good way to bury slavery, but neither the 
resolutions of the North Carolina Assembly nor those of 
the New England Society were calculated to diminish preju- 

The change in public opinion is well illustrated by the 
course of the Raleigh Register. Its editor, Joseph Gales, had 
left England in 1794 on account of a certain connection with 
a violent pamphlet of a French republican flavor. His love 
of liberty made him steadily opposed to slavery. He was a 
follower of Jefferson and later on a Whig. He certainly did 
not represent the general sentiment on the slavery question, 
but even the opinions of his paper were not proof against 
the pro-slavery impulse of public thought. In 1818 the 
Register described slavery as "a Upas tree of most frightful 
dimensions and most poisonous qualities." In 1825, when 
another paper declared that the Register was "very little in 
unison" with the opinions of the great body of slaveholders, 
Mr. Gales replied : 

We consider slavery an evil, a great evil, but one imposed on us 
without our consent, and therefore necessary, though we cannot 
believe irremediable, hopeless and perpetual. On the simple ques- 
tion: "Ought slavery to exist" we presume but few persons would 
answer in the affirmative, and still fewer would be found bold enough 
to advocate the practice as being right in itself or to justify it, except 
on the broad plea of necessity. That it would conduce equally to the 
interest and happiness of the slaveholding States to get rid of this 
part of our population few will deny. It is a dead weight which 
mars all enterprise and clogs the wheels of the political machine. 
None can doubt that if North Carolina could give the whole of 
her colored population for one-half the number of whites she would 
be among the foremost in the race of active improvements now run- 
ning by most of the free States. We hope the time will come, 
though it is probably far distant, when a better order of things will 
prevail in this respect. 1 

In 1830 the Register had begun to change its tone. It 
pronounced "highly seditious" the anti-slavery articles then 

1 Raleigh Register, September 20, 1825. 

421] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 105 

appearing in the Greensboro Patriot, of which William 
Swaim was the editor. In 1835 the Register declared itself 
as follows : 

Until recently we were disposed to regard the movements of the 
abolitionists with indifference and contempt ; but it is folly to shut 
our eyes to the fact that they are rapidly augmenting in numbers, and 
that their zeal and exertion are increasing in even greater ratio. By 
a late circular, signed by Arthur Tappan, Lewis Tappan, the Rev. Dr. 
Cox, etc., it seems that they are determined to raise $30,000 during 
the present year to be devoted to printing and circulating gratuitously 
inflammatory papers calculated to do extensive mischief. 1 

Four weeks later the same paper, on the authority of 
Lewis Tappan, said that the abolitionists had printed 175,000 
abolition circulars, of which 1000 had been destroyed in 
Charleston. "The rest," said Tappan, "are accomplishing 
the designs intended throughout the United States. We 
will persevere, come life or death. If any fall by the hand 
of violence, others will continue the blessed work." By this 
time the Register was out and out a pro-slavery organ. This 
change in sentiment in a most conservative paper — the edi- 
torial management of which remained continually in the same 
family — father and son — during this entire period, must 
have been indicative of a much stronger popular change. 2 

Co-existent with the facts just mentioned there was a 
strong political side to this change. The Whigs were, for 
most of the period before the Civil War, more opposed to 
slavery than the Democrats. They now found themselves 
uncomfortably placed between two fires. Abolitionists 
charged them with favoring slaveholders. Pro-slavery peo- 
ple charged them with a leaning towards Northern abolition 
doctrines. Each charge was denied. In each there was some 

'Raleigh Register, October 1, 1835. 

"Sometime before his death in 1842 Joseph Gales went to live in 
Washington City, leaving the editorial management of the paper in 
the hands of his son. I can find no date for this, but it was hardly 
so early as 1835. At that time the paper announced at its head that 
it was published by "Gales and Son." 

106 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [422 

show of truth. Whiggery was already being dragged into 
the maelstrom of sectionalism, which was destined to- destroy 
it. In North Carolina it did not dare to oppose slavery. At 
the time about which I have been speaking, another issue 
overshadowed all others. It was the question of apportion- 
ment of seats in the Assembly. The Constitution provided 
that each county should have equal representation. The 
western counties were larger than many eastern counties and 
demanded an apportionment of seats according to popula- 
tion. The struggle was won by the West, and the desired 
reform was accomplished by the constitutional convention 
of 1835. x This put a new complexion on State politics for a 
few years ; but as soon as this issue was forgotten — and it 
was not long in doing so — the two parties were drawn into 
discussion of the slavery question. It was in the campaign of 
1840 that the matter first became prominent. The Standard, 
a Democratic paper at Raleigh, called the Whigs "abolition- 
ists." The Register, which was the leading Whig organ, 
charged Van Buren with favoring negro equality. The 
controversy became warm. The Democrats attacked Mr. 
Morehead, Whig candidate for Governor, because he had 
prepared a report against the bill to prevent the instruction 
of slaves. The Whigs replied that Mr. Haywood, the Demo- 
cratic candidate, had done the same thing. The Whig candi- 
date was looked upon with suspicion, because he was from 
Guilford County, where anti-slavery ideas were abundant. 
The Whigs replied by charging that Mr. Saunders, a Demo- 
cratic ex-Congressman, had presented to Congress a petition 
from the Manumission Society of Guilford County. When 
the Whigs finally won in 1840 the Register announced the 
victory under the headlines : Whiggery Victorious ! The 
Black Flag of Abolition Laid Low ! 

After 1840 the controversy slept till 1846, when the Wil- 
mot Proviso was introduced. It now became violent. 

] See the author's "Suffrage in North Carolina," Report of the 
American Historical Association, 1895. 

423] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 107 

The Democrats had the Whigs on the defensive. The latter 
were forced to repudiate the action of the New England 
Whigs, who had just endorsed the proviso in a convention 
at Springfield, Mass. The result was satisfactory. The 
Whigs were still strong, and carried the State by what was 
then a substantial majority of 7000. In 1848 the controversy 
for equal suffrage began, the Democrats favoring it and the 
Whigs opposing. It ran strong, but the feeling on the 
slavery question was not allayed. The two parties vied with 
one another in denouncing abolition. 

In the storm of feeling which preceded the compromise 
measures of 1850, North Carolina was not untouched. The 
strongly conservative feeling of the State was brought into 
play, and the resolutions which were introduced into the Leg- 
islature were milder than they would have been in some 
other Southern States. On January 16, 1849, the 
Assembly resolved all but unanimously, that to forbid slav- 
ery in the District of Columbia or in the territories would 
be a "grave injustice and wrong" and contrary to the spirit 
of the Constitution, and that they were willing to stand by 
the Missouri Compromise. An amendment to these resolu- 
tions was offered by the House of Commons and concurred 
in by the Senate, pledging the State more strongly than 
ever to the Union and repudiating "whatever may suggest 
even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned. This 
amendment was introduced into the House by Edward Stan- 
ley, of Beaufort County, 1 who was a Union man of the 
strongest sort. 

In the session of 1850-51 the same matter came up again. 
A joint committee was appointed to act for the two Houses. 
A report was prepared and submitted. It was in favor of 
accepting the Compromise of 1850, but sounded a note of 
warning in regard to the Fugitive Slave Law. There were 
many resolutions on this subject before the Assembly. One 
of them expressed, perhaps, pretty thoroughly the feeling 

1 Journal of the Assembly of 1848-49, pp. 717 and 725. 

108 Slavery in the State of North Carolina. [424 

of most of the members. It ran : "Resolved, That we will 
have the Fugitive Slave Law or fight." Many amendments 
were offered to the resolutions of the committee, and an 
intricate debate was just beginning when the matter sud- 
denly dropped out of the journal of the Assembly, leaving us 
to guess the cause. Perhaps it was because the Assembly was 
brought to realize the futility of bringing on a discussion 
which would create feeling and endanger the Union, all to 
accomplish no definite end. The compromise laws had 
then been passed in Congress, and as yet the Fugitive Slave 
Law had not been tried. It was evidently in the interest of 
good' sense to say nothing about the slavery question. 

The last decade before the war was quiet enough so far 
as the political relation of slavery was concerned. There was, 
as the crisis approached, a considerable amount of sectional 
recrimination, but it does not belong to the history of slavery, 
but rather to the larger history of the great sectional strug- 
gle. In the meantime, and, indeed, for a decade and a half 
previously, there had been no legislation of importance which 
bore on slavery. The status of the slaves had been fixed to 
the satisfaction of the masters by the legislation which came 
closely before or after 1830. This intermediate period was 
marked by profound quiet on the part of the slaves. The 
negroes were prostrate, restrained at every point by law. So 
completely were they subjected that they gave no trouble 
during the war that followed. During this war it was 
not found necessary to amend the law controlling the con- 
duct of slaves at any vital point. This quietude of the slaves 
has been attributed to their good nature. It ought to be 
attributed to their lack of esprit du corps, their lack of 
organization, and their fear of the whites. They did not 
remain quiet because they loved slavery. They had small op- 
portunity for rebellion. The counties were closely defended 
by home guards, embodied from the old men and the youths 
and in each State till the end of the war there were easily 
accessible bodies of troops which would bave crushed with 
fearful promptitude an attempt at insurrection. No revolt 

425] The Triumph of the Pro-Slavery Sentiment. 109 

that the negro could have made would have stood a week. 
That the negroes were willing enough to have their liberty, 
even at the expense of the lives of their masters, is shown 
by the readiness with which they enlisted into regiments in 
the Union Army, and by the desperate courage with which, 
raw as they were, they frequently bore themselves in battle 
when under the leadership of competent white officers. 


With few exceptions, I have been thrown back on Quellen, 
and of this class of material the pieces have been varied and 
multitudinous- Slavery is unannalled so far as the slaves 
themselves are concerned. I have been forced to pick up 
information here and there as it is found in the documents 
and other literature of the white man. At best I can hope 
for but little more than that this, and other works of mine 
on slavery in North Carolina, may serve for a point around 
which many more facts not now in the range of my knowl- 
edge may be gathered, till at last the subject is known 
through and through. 

My chief sources of information have been laws and legal 
opinions. Of these are : 

Laws of North Carolina, 1790. 

Laws of North Carolina, 1821. 

Revised Statutes of North Carolina, 1837. 

Revised Code of North Carolina, 1835. 

Journals of the North Carolina Assembly. 

Reports of the cases in the North Carolina Supreme 

I have found much information in the newspapers of the 
day, particularly the Raleigh Register, and the North Caro- 
lina Standard. 

Other materials of a more miscellaneous nature are: 

Caruthers, E. W. : American Slavery and the Immediate 
Duty of Slaveholders, an unpublished manuscript now in 
possession of the library of Greensboro Female College 
(N. C.) 

Wightman : Life of Bishop Capers. 

Drew : Life of Dr. Thomas Coke. 

Hawkins : Memoir of Lunsford Lane. 

427] Authorities. Ill 

Biggs : History of the Kehuckee Association. 

Purefoy : History of the Sandy Creek Association. 

Weeks : Southern Quakers and Slavery. 

Hoss : Sketch of the Life of Elihu Embree. Publications 
of Vanderbilt Historical Society, No. 2, 1897. 

Smith: History of Education in North Carolina. 

Olmsted : Journey in the Seaboard Slave States. 

Du Bois: The Suppression of the Slave Trade. 

North Carolina Colonial Records, Vol. IX. 

De Bow's Review. 

Weaver : The North Carolina Manumission Society. The 
Historical Papers of the Trinity College (N. C.) Historical 

Chreitzberger : Early Methodism in Wilmington, N. C. 
The first annual publication of the Historical Society of the 
North Carolina Conference of the M. E. Church South, 1897. 

Gaston, Wm. : Address at Commencement at the Univer- 
sity of North Carolina, 1832. 

David Dodge [O. W. Blacknall] : Free Negoes of North 
Carolina. The Atlantic Monthly, January, 1886. 

Minutes of the Conference of the Methodist Episcopal 

Disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

Minutes of the Chowan Baptist Association. 

Minutes of the North Carolina Baptist Convention. 

McCill : American Slavery as Viewed and Acted on by the 
Presbyterian Church in America. 

"Presbyterianism and Slavery." Official document pub- 
lished for the use of the General Assembly of the Presby- 
terian Church at Pittsburg, 1836. 

Journal of the North Carolina Episcopal Convention — not 

Bassett, J. S. : Slavery and Servitude in the Colony of 
North Carolina. Hopkins Studies in History and Politics, 
1896. Anti-Slavery Leaders of North Carolina, Ibid., 1897. 
Suffrage in the State of North Carolina. Publication of the 
American Historical Association, 1895. 



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VI. Anti-Slavery Eeaders of North Carolina. By J. S. Bassett. 50 cents. 
VII-1X. Eife and Administration of Sir Robert Eden. By B. C. Steiner. $1.00. 
X XI. The Transition of North Carolina from a Colony to a Commonwealth. 

By E. W. Sikes. 50 cents. 
XII. Jared Sparks and Alexis De Tocqueville. By H. B. Adams. 25 cents. 

SEVENTEENTH SERIES— 1899,— Subscription, $3.00. 

I-II-III. History of State Banking in Maryland. By A. C. Bryan. $1.00. 

IV- V. History of the Know-Nothing Party in Maryland. By L. F. Schmeckebier. 75 

VI. The Labadist Colony in Maryland. By B. B. James. 50 cents. 
VII-VIII. History of Slavery in North Carolina. By J. S. Bassett. 75 cents. 
History of Slavery in Virginia. By J. C. Ballagh. 

Early Development of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Project. By George W. Ward. 
The Admission of Iowa into the Union. By J. A. James. 
The Colonial Executive Prior to the Restoration. By P. L. Kaye. 
The History of Suffrage in Virginia. By J. A. C. Chandler. 

The Johns Hopkins Press, 

Baltimore, Md. 

North Carolina State Library 
* : Raleigh 

GC 326.97Sb U3i»si 

c. 2 

Bassett, John Spencer, 1867-1928, 
Slavery in the state of North Carolina 

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